Despite rumors among some disgruntled community members, the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade will kick off as usual this year on the May 26 holiday.
Known as the largest Memorial Day parade in the country, the Little Neck-Douglaston event has been around for more than 80 years. But according to sources who asked that their names not be used, many community members were not happy with the way the parade was run and had pulled out their monetary support.
In addition, they said the longtime parade committee president, Jim Rodgers, was a one-man operation who did not want anyone else’s help and “rubbed people the wrong way.”
Rodgers has moved to Connecticut and a new parade committee is in the process of being formed. Efforts are being organized by new directors Victor Mimoni, a former committee member, and Douglas Montgomery, an active civic leader. Both men are from Douglaston.
“The community is stepping up to the plate,” Mimoni said. “There is considerable neighborhood support. They felt alienated and now the parade has gone back to its roots.”
One source said that once Rodgers was out of the picture, people came back. He could not be reached.
Mimoni noted that it costs around $35,000 to put on the parade and funds need to be raised. “Groups like the Francis Lewis High School Marching Band and the NYPD Band have to be paid for transportation and other costs.”
But Mimoni remains positive that things will work out. “The parade may be a little smaller than in the past, but it is going to happen,” he added. “The public won’t notice the difference.”
Since the old parade committee has been disbanded, Montgomery and Mimoni said that the United War Veterans, who run the parade in Manhattan, will serve as administrators this year and will take care of handling the finances.
Montgomery, a realtor who heads the Douglaston Garden Club and is a member of Community Board 11, said he is excited about helping to reinvigorate the parade. “Hopefully, this is a new chapter for the parade,” he said. “We can’t lose it and we’ll do what’s best for the community.”
Still needing to be worked out is the interfaith service held prior to the parade. St. Anastasia Catholic Church, where the parade ends, has been involved in the past, but the two parade directors said whether the service continues is undecided.
The parade starts at the Nassau County border and proceeds down Northern Boulevard to St. Anastasia. An estimated crowd of 80,000 people line up along the route to witness it.
There are military units, floats, bands, politicians, the Black Cowboys on their horses, a Teddy Roosevelt lookalike, veterans groups and so much more. Both directors said because of military spending cuts, there may be less armed forces marching, but that will be a reality for all parades this year.
The committee was to meet on Wednesday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Church of Little Neck and will continue to meet on a regular basis to get people involved and help organize the parade.