Memorial Day parade will pay tribute to Wilton's fallen
After the pancakes have been eaten and the brass has been shined, it will be time for one of Wilton’s biggest events of the year — the Memorial Day parade.
With sunny skies forecast for Monday, May 27, the parade will step off at 10 a.m. from the Stop & Shop plaza on River Road. (The road will be closed to traffic at 9:30.)
Led by Grand Marshal Judd Mott, marchers will make their way to Old Ridgefield Road where veterans will lay a wreath at American Legion Post 86, named for Marine Corporal James B. Whipple, who never came home to Wilton when he left to serve in World War I. Killed in action on June 4, 1918, he is buried in France.
A wreath will also be laid at the memorial at the gazebo on the town green.
Marchers will include the Wilton High School band, the Pyramid Temple Bagpipers, Wilton American Legion Post No. 86, the Wilton Police Department, Wilton Fire Department and Scouts and civic groups. There will also be floats and U.S. Army vehicles.
Before turning up Ridgefield Road, before passing a reviewing stand for dignitaries on their way to Hillside Cemetery, veterans will salute the Veterans Memorial Green, the granite pillars inscribed with the names of Wilton sons who gave their lives for freedom in conflicts from the French and Indian War through the War in Iraq.
Among those remembering their sacrifice will be second grade Brownie Troop 50411, who will be marching with their Hearts for Heroes, a collection of wooden hearts recognizing soldiers from Wilton who died in service.
“The girls had to do a journey project, which is basically a community service project and it encompasses the whole year, said Ashleigh Nelson, a troop leader. “We wanted them to do something that they could take charge of and understand. The thing they said that they liked about being a Girl Scout over and over again was marching in the Memorial Day Parade.”
The girls worked at Miller-Driscoll school, gluing laminated paper to pieces of wood in the shape of a heart. Each heart had a conflict and the list of names, beginning with Josiah Canfield in the French and Indian War and going to Nick Madaras, who was killed in Iraq in 2006.
“We educated them about why we march in the parade and what Memorial Day is,” Ms. Nelson said. “We will donate them to the service units so that, for years to come, they can be carried in the parade.”
She said they used Bob Russell’s book, Wilton, Connecticut, as a reference for the names of those lost in battle. The troop spoke with various agencies and groups throughout Wilton, and also presented their plan to the parade committee.
“The town has been very supportive,” Ms. Nelson added.
The girls raised money to buy the supplies they used to create the hearts. A separate project saw the creation of stars with each girl’s name on them, while pins were created to present to members of the American Legion as a thank you. Each girl signed a large letter that will also go to the American Legion.
“The girls have done a great job,” said Ms. Nelson. “It’s been a neat experience for them. The girls created these hearts to be carried in the parade to honor, thank and remember Wilton’s fallen soldiers.”
Honor and Remember
The theme for this year’s parade is Honor and Remember, and all veterans in town are invited to march.
Senior citizens and people with disabilities are encouraged to park at the Children’s Day School of Wilton at 111 Ridgefield Road, where they may watch the parade. Once the parade passes, the Dial-a-Ride van will take them from the parking lot up to the cemetery for the service and back. There will not be any parking or shuttle service from the Congregational Church.
There will be a gathering point at the church, however, for children and their parents who won’t be marching all the way to the cemetery. Those who choose not to walk to the cemetery are asked to wait until the parade passes before making their way back to Wilton Center.
The ceremony will feature the national anthem played by the Wilton High School band followed by First Selectman Bill Brennan reading a proclamation.
Air Force veteran Bing Ventres will introduce Mr. Mott and keynote speaker Bob Russell.
Wilton High School student Gabriella Pucci will sing America the Beautiful. Shalini Madaras, mother of fallen soldier Pfc. Nicholas Madaras, will lay a wreath.
The benediction will be given by David Gish of Hope Church after which Drew Kennedy will play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. Two Wilton High School buglers will play taps. The Wilton Police Department will offer a gun salute.
At this point the American flag will be raised to full staff.
Although the forecast as of now is for sunny skies on Monday, in case of inclement weather the ceremony will be held inside the Congregational church. In the event of bad weather or an emergency delay, information will be posted on the town website wiltonct.org, on The Wilton Bulletin website wiltonbulletin.com as well as on Channel 12 news.
The Memorial Day parade and parade committee are independent of the town and receive no municipal funds. The committee relies on private donations to pay its expenses including hiring a bagpiper, and purchasing banners and flags. Each year the committee places flags on the 400 military graves in Wilton.
Donations may be addressed to the Wilton Memorial Day Parade Committee, P.O. Box 75, Wilton, CT 06897.