For the first time in decades, there will be no Memorial Day parade in the city.
The procession on Main Street has been held the Friday before Memorial Day, which would have been today.
The Johnstown Memorial Day Parade Committee, a volunteer group, canceled the annual event after last year’s parade, said committee member John Morris. “We took a vote last year to discontinue it for a couple of reasons,” he said. “We are in essence burned out. We have all been doing it for 16 to 17 years.”
Primary reasons for the decision are the lack of people such as Ruth White to help organize the time-consuming event, the lack of groups wishing to march in the parade, and the lack of veterans who are interested in participating in the parade, Morris said.
White, who was longtime secretary-treasurer of the committee, is in a nursing home and can no longer actively participate, and Morris said the committee, which once numbered eight volunteers, is down to four people, himself included.
“This will be first year in decades without a parade. I have been involved since the 1990s and we have had a parade every year,” Morris said. He is a Vietnam War veteran, while others on the committee are not veterans.
Finances are not a problem, Morris said.
The city of Johnstown had budgeted $2,000 toward the parade, said Mayor Sarah Slingerland. She said she would have been more concerned by the loss of the parade had not the committee developed a memorial ceremony to honor veterans. That ceremony will be at Johnstown High School at 7 p.m. Wednesday. “We all want to honor the veterans of the past and those serving today,” she said.
Mark Kilmer, president of the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called the demise of the parade sad. “It is one more thing that has gone by the wayside due to a lack of participation by organizers who may have so much on their plates these days,” he said.
He said the chamber, which recently merged with its counterpart in Montgomery County, may hold discussions to see what can be done to keep the parade going or to replace it.
The parade generally attracted hundreds, if not thousands of people to the city’s downtown, helping give the area an economic boost, Kilmer said.
“It was always well-attended and I am sure it had an effect downtown,” he said. “We have got to see where the chamber can get involved. This will be a piece of work we will need to look at,” he said.
Morris said organizing the parade was a huge undertaking and that the committee asked for volunteers to help with this year’s parade. The response was tepid, he said. “We put the word out that we needed support. The younger guys do not seem to have an interest in supporting us,” he said.
Past parades once featured six divisions that included high school marching bands and fire departments from throughout the area. In recent years, the parade had four divisions and hardly any marching bands but plenty of firetrucks, Morris said.
Slingerland said the city will not take over the planning and execution of the parade. “It is really more appropriate that a volunteer committee organize it,” she said.
Morris said it is unlikely there will be a parade next year either, unless more people come forward. “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Once people see there is no parade, maybe more people will come forward.”
Veterans’ groups in Saratoga Springs had canceled their Memorial Day parade for this year, citing tight finances and lack of participants. Then a young man got involved and the parade is back on for Monday.
Gloversville will hold its Memorial Day Parade on Monday as well.
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