By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(May 31, 2018) The annual Old Fashioned Memorial Day Parade on Monday was a roaring success by all accounts, with record attendance of more than 3,000, according to organizer estimates.
Several dozen veteran’s organizations, school and youth groups, car clubs, police and fire personnel, and others marched from Stephen Decatur Middle School to a staging area near Dr. William Henry Park on Flower Street.
Along with thousands of onlookers lining the streets were food tents selling everything from chicken and waffles, to oyster fritters and crab cakes. A large, inflatable bounce house for children was set up near the multipurpose building, and additional vendors sold colorful balloons and inflatable Spider-Men and Sponge Bobs from a rolling cart.
After the parade ended, there were dance-group performances and a basketball tournament at Henry Park, a gospel concert inside the multipurpose building, and horseshoes later in the afternoon.
Mayor Gee Williams, who gave a parade introduction after riding in a procession that included Korean War veterans, said Tuesday attendance obviously had increased.
“I think it was by far the largest crowd … I’ve seen,” he said. “Years ago, I used to park my car at Henry Park and there was maybe a couple cars in the parking lot.”
This year the large lot across from Henry Park was nearly full, Williams said.
“It was just a delightful, jubilant crowd. And we all need that from time to time,” he said. “It’s great for the community, and it’s a great way to honor our fallen soldiers and military folks.
“They gave everything, and I think they would be very proud of the way Berlin honors them through the Memorial Day Parade and early on Sunday morning during the American Legion Memorial Day Service,” Williams continued. “I was very proud of everyone.”
Parade emcee Gregory Purnell said organizers were thrilled with the increased number of units in the parade, as well as with the high turnout.
“They were there in larger number this year and it was very apparent, even with the weather being a little gray and cloudy,” he said. “People were there from not only the Berlin community, but from other communities around.
“I also noticed the other Berlin community there. They were walking [across Route 113] and I saw them in good numbers. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was a very great beginning,” Purnell added.
He said certificates and participation trophies were given to groups who marched in the parade, rather than outright judging entries similar to the annual Christmas parade downtown. Part of the reasoning is because the parade is meant to honor veterans.
“Everybody comes and they get a trophy, and it all says ‘first place’ because you are – you’re a first-place unit and we want you to feel that way for being a participant,” Purnell said. “But I’m happy that we had more of the Berlin community in total in attendance.
“The parade has become a reflection of the entire town of Berlin. People from all over the city and all over the town could be seen,” he continued. “And we are very happy to have everyone be a part of our celebration – a bridge is replacing the wall in this town.”