Memorial Day parade will 'Honor and Remember'

With coordination befitting a plan of battle, Wilton’s Memorial Day Parade Committee met Tuesday afternoon, May 20, to finalize plans for the annual event.

The parade will step off at 10 Monday morning, May 26, from the Stop & Shop plaza on River Road, which will be closed to traffic at 9:45. Ridgefield Road will be closed at Drum Hill Road and Belden Hill Road as well.

All Wilton veterans have been invited to join in the parade and attend a catered picnic for veterans, sponsored by American Legion Post 86, behind the Legion Hall on Old Ridgefield Road. (Those planning to attend should RSVP to Post Comdr. Don Hazzard at dhazz44@hotmail.com.)

The parade will end at Hillside Cemetery, where there will be a tribute to those who have died in service to their country.

Along the way there will be scores of marchers, dignitaries, a marching band, bagpipers, military vehicles, antique cars, floats, ponies, and emergency vehicles.

Riding in a 1906 Buick will be parade Grand Marshal Trygve Hansen, a veteran of World War II. A native of Norway, Mr. Hansen saw considerable action as a lead stoker in the Norwegian Navy.

An Army Jeep will carry keynote speaker Jim Newton, who served in Vietnam as a Marine. His acts of heroism earned him a Bronze Star Medal.

They will lead Wilton veterans and members of the American Legion in the parade along Old Ridgefield Road, past American Legion Post 86 and past the memorial at the gazebo, where wreaths will have been laid in a ceremony before the parade. They will continue to the Veterans Memorial Green, where they will salute 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, before turning up Ridgefield Road on their way to the cemetery.

Following will be members of the Wilton police and fire departments, EMS responders, CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members, the Wilton High School Marching Band, and the Pyramid Temple Bagpipers.

They will be joined by members of many town organizations including the Daughters of the American Revolution, Wilton Garden Club, Children of the American Revolution, Wilton Congregational Church, Our Lady of Fatima, Wilton Library, the Treblemakers, Wilton Children’s Theater, Knights of Columbus, Wilton Pony Club, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies and Daisies.

There will be several floats including those representing the Friends of Ambler Farm and Woodcock Nature Center.

Two Dial-A-Ride vans will be stationed at Wilton Congregational Church at 70 Ridgefield Road to take senior citizens and those with disabilities to the ceremony at Hillside Cemetery. Marchers and parade watchers who choose not to travel on to the cemetery are asked to wait for the parade to pass before making their way back to Wilton Center.

Ceremony

The theme for this year’s parade is “Honor and Remember,” and retired Wilton Fire Capt. Karl Dolnier will get the memorial tribute off to a dramatic start with the firing of a cannon.

The Wilton High School Marching Band will play the national anthem and First Selectman Bill Brennan will read a proclamation.

Parade Committee Chairman Ray Tobiassen will introduce keynote speaker Jim Newton.

Wilton High School senior Nicholas Dehn will sing America the Beautiful and My Country ’Tis of Thee. Nicholas has sung in the all-state choir and was named outstanding vocalist at the high school’s recent music adjudication trip.

Air Force veteran Bing Ventres will lay a wreath, and Navy reservist Jeff Turner will read the names of Wilton veterans who have died during the past year.

Father Reggie Norman of Our Lady of Fatima will give the benediction after which Drew Kennedy will play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

The ceremony will close with two high school buglers playing taps and the Wilton Police Department will offer a gun salute.

At this point the American flag will be raised to full staff.

Bad weather

The National Weather Service predicts sunny skies for Monday with a high in the 70s — perfect marching weather — but if that should change and rain prevails, the ceremony will take place inside the Congregational church. In the event of bad weather or an emergency delay, information will be posted on the town website, wiltonct.org, and The Wilton Bulletin website at wiltonbulletin.com.

Donations

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 the bagpipers 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.