Roscoe Memorial Day Parade: low turnout meets high patriotism


VFW Post 2955 Commander Rubin Hernandez addressed a large crowd at Roscoe Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2023.

Update: On May 21, 2034, VFW Commander Ruben Hernandez and Roscoe Police Chief Administrator Sam Hawley agreed on a satisfactory parade route: from Presley and Main, Main to Harrison, right on Harrison to Roscoe Cemetery. Trustees approved it at their  meeting that evening.

Roscoe trustees will take a delicate vote at their 6:30 p.m. board meeting on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. They need to approve the route of the VFW Post 2955 Memorial Day Parade, less than a week away. In 2023, even though the parade was much smaller than it used to be, police closed Main Street from Bridge Street to Harrison Street, and Harrison Street from Main Street to 6th Street, annoying some residents. The parade was canceled in 2021 and 2022, but many residents attended Memorial Day ceremonies at Roscoe Cemetery.

The VFW submitted a parade application to the Village on March 14, 2024. As usual, they planned to begin the parade at Bridge Street, march down Main Street to Broad Street, turn right past Leland Park, and end with a ceremony at Roscoe Cemetery.

But on March 20, Roscoe Community Development Officer Vic Wilder asked the VFW about shortening the parade route to match the smaller numbers expected. Village Administrator Josef Kurlinkus points to "the low turnout of participants at last year’s parade (and subsequent feedback received by the Village)."

At the March 20 meeting, Wilder told the VFW that, to give the Village time to plan for road closures and police security, the VFW needed to have their participant list finalized by April 20. That didn't happen by April 20. The VFW said they "distributed sign-up sheets to the public, and others may show up on the day of the parade." A month later, the VFW expects to be joined by a Roscoe Police squad car, members of the Harlem Roscoe Fire Department, the Roscoe Middle School marching band, three vehicles from local businesses, students from two martial arts academies, and possibly others.

On April 23, Vic Wilder wrote a letter of denial to outgoing VFW Post Commander Ruben Hernandez, saying "With the event date approaching in less than five weeks, and without a completed list of participants, there is insufficient time for our teams to develop and implement the necessary safety measures. Therefore, we regret to inform you that the Village of Roscoe must decline your application to host the Memorial Day parade scheduled for May 27, 2024."

The VFW told Kurlinkus "it was our goal to increase participation every year and that not allowing the parade this year would severely hamper our efforts the following years to improve the parade."

Wilder and Kurlinkus suggested that VFW Post 2955 "have a more solemn procession beginning at Leland Park, and concluding with a ceremony at the Roscoe Cemetery," instead of a parade along Main Street.

The VFW declined the Village's suggestion. "We stressed that this solution was not acceptable to the VFW."

Despite the letter, the VFW website still says the parade will step off "at 10:00 AM at Bridge and Main Streets, and conclude at the Roscoe Cemetery, where the Memorial Day Services will commence immediately following the Parade. Then, come back to the Post for refreshments."

Kurlinkus hasn't changed his position either. After talking with Roscoe Police Chief Sam Hawley, Kurlinkus recommends that the trustees "approve a permit to allow a procession without street closures from Leland Park to the Roscoe Cemetery" - which is not what the VFW asked for.

The VFW sent a notice to its members urging them to attend the 6:30 meeting on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 to support the original parade route. They seem to have felt blindsided by Kurlinkus's comments, believing that he wanted to cancel the event entirely, though the April 23 letter of denial was already suggesting the alternate route.

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