Gen. George S. Patton once said: "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
Taking a page from the father of U.S. armored warfare, the Museum of American Armor has found a way to host its annual Fourth of July parade Saturday — despite coronavirus pandemic social-distancing protocols that threatened to force its cancellation.
Though the museum remains closed, the not-for-profit will host the parade on the grounds of Old Bethpage Village Restoration, where the museum is located, on Saturday.
Viewers who have purchased a limited number of $25 e-tickets (now sold out) will be able to enter and park in what museum officials are calling “a socially distant parking space.” The parade, which will feature dozens of military vehicles dating to World War I, will proceed past the viewers, who can remain alongside their vehicles for the duration of the event.
Organizers expect a crowd of about 500 to attend.
"The military learned to pivot, so did we," museum spokesman Gary Lewi said, adding it was important that the parade go on despite the pandemic.
For most of the past decade the museum sent vehicles, including tanks, troop carriers, armored cars and other combat vehicles, to take part in a parade before thousands lining the streets in Massapequa Park. But with all the pandemic protocols in place, this year that was out of the question.
Fortunately, Lewi said, the grounds at the museum site in Old Bethpage provided the chance to think outside the box.
Assigned spaces have been designated in the Village Restoration parking lot “in a socially distant responsible way” and viewers will be able to drive onto the site and park for the parade, museum officials said. All drivers and their vehicle occupants will be required to wear masks and remain “socially separated” from passengers in other vehicles.
Ticket holders will be allowed on the grounds starting at 9:30 a.m. and all vehicles must be parked and in place by 10:15 a.m.
The parade will include the legendary Sherman tank, made famous by Patton and Gen. Omar Bradley in World War II, as well as the M18 Hellcat tank destroyer, halftracks and armored cars similar to those used to liberate Nazi death camps. Also featured will be the M48 Patton tank, Vietnam-era combat vehicles and even a machine gun-mounted Model T Ford like those used for military service in Europe in World War I.
The museum hosts an operational collection of more than 40 vehicles and Lewi said that while all not-for-profit museums are facing pandemic-related economic stress, the parade will help American Armor remain a viable host of important historic military might.
"The reason why we are able to celebrate our nation’s birth is because of the sacrifice and courage of those who have served," Lewi said. "We would argue that every national holiday deserves a tip of the hat."