| Matt Conway
CHICOPEE – The City of Chicopee and the Veteran Services Department will host the city’s first patriotic parade celebration on June 25.
The Patriotic Parade begins at 3 p.m. The celebratory march starts at the American Legion Post 452 and will conclude at the entrance of Szot Park on Front Street. The event preceeds the city’s traditional Independence Day evening fireworks.
Veteran Services Director Stephanie Shaw shared that the new event spurred from conversations over the years surrounding the city’s Memorial Day celebration. Shaw said the Memorial Day Planning Committee did not want a parade, opting instead for a somber march towards Veteran Plaza on Front Street over the years.
The procession involves veterans and Gold Star families alike.
“The veterans were very happy with that somber walk into the plaza space with the Gold Star families,” said Shaw in an interview with Reminder Publishing.
However, citizens expressed interest in the city hosting a celebratory parade. During a prior year, an attempt at blending parade aspects with the city’s typical Memorial Day events did not satisfy citizens expecting a jubilant celebration, according to Shaw.
The different interests led to Shaw and her department creating an entirely new event.
“After a lot of back and forth, [we thought] what if we give the community the parade they want while still respecting the veterans and how they feel,” said Shaw.
The veteran services director said the new plan jointly satisfies the mourning and remembrance of Memorial Day along with offering a “huge celebration” for the season’s different holidays, which includes Independence Day, Flag Day and the United States Army’s birthday.
The parade includes floats, veteran organizations, marching bands and the mascot for the Springfield Thunderbirds. Shaw shared that the parade will also feature community businesses and representatives.
“We’re going to have all the key elements people expect from a parade…Its going to be a really fun parade. We’re really grateful to celebrate our patriotic nature here in the community,” said Shaw.
Once the parade concludes at Szot Park, Shaw said a resource fair focused on the military and different veteran services will be available.
“The best way we can honor our fallen and Gold Star families is by taking care of our veterans today,” said Shaw. Participating organizations include the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke and the American Legion.
Shaw expressed that the community will be happy with the inaugural celebration.
“I think once they see the product that we’ve put together and how hard we worked on this, there going to see that we delivered on a parade,” said Shaw.