Rain may have canceled Merrick’s Memorial Day parade, but it didn’t stop local Girl and Boy Scout troops from taking to the sidewalk.
Five troops — three Girl Scout troops, one Boy Scout troop and one Cub Scout troop — scheduled to march hadn’t received the message that the parade was canceled until they showed up in downtown Merrick, ready to celebrate Memorial Day with banners and songs, troop leaders said.
“We got an email at about 8 a.m. saying the parade was on, so we got our children and went down there,” said Meghan Sullivan, co-leader of Daisy Troop 2410 and leader of Brownie Troop 2449.
By 8:45 a.m., as the children began arriving for the 9:30 a.m. parade start, organizers decided to cancel the event, said Sullivan, 35, of Merrick. For a number of the children, who range in age from 7 to 12, it was supposed to be their first time marching.
Andrew Shabica, 42, of Merrick, who accompanied Boy Scout Troop 351 and Cub Scout Pack 206, said the adults were trying to figure out what to do after they got the news.
“The kids were very disappointed. They had their uniforms on and their banners,” said Kelly Wilcha, 39, leader of Merrick Girl Scout troops 2410 and 2308. “We said you know what, these kids deserve to march.”
The troops, along with a group from Merrick’s Grace Reformed Baptist Church, decided to have their own parade on the sidewalk. Wilcha said the children’s families spread out along the original route, cheering the children on as they all walked up Merrick Avenue carrying flags and singing songs like “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and carrying flags.
“The kids were thrilled because they got to march and that was awesome,” Shabica said. “By letting them know early it was rain or shine, they had preset their brains that it’s OK, it’ll be a little wet or chilly.”
Near the middle of the original route, at Merrick Avenue Middle School, a few Nassau County police officers noticed the parade and stopped to ask what they were doing, troop leaders said. The officers then offered them an escort and closed the road for them to march until they reached the Veteran Memorial Park near Camp Avenue.
“We thought it was very kind,” Sullivan said. “It definitely made it more of a real experience for them.”
Many parades around Long Island were called off because of the ill-timed precipitation, but not in Deer Park, Farmingdale, Islip, Northport or Valley Stream.
Light rain fell as several community organizations marched in the Deer Park parade, which concluded with a commemorative service on Deer Park Avenue.
More than 100 people watched the service, which included a wreath- and flag-placing ceremony at the community’s John F. Kennedy Intermediate School monument.
“It’s a nice crowd and it’s very nice, especially with the rain falling,” said Ed Rudnicki, a Vietnam veteran from Deer Park and a member of the Edward K. Peisker VFW Post 5348. “It was great to have people come out.”
In Valley Stream, hundreds lined the streets to watch the 97th annual parade there, sponsored by the American Legion. They waved American flags and cheered on the fire trucks that drove by.
“I’m glad everyone stuck it out in the rain,” said Valley Stream resident Cindy Kozlik, 40. “I’m extremely thankful for everything veterans do for us.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo didn’t march but he did greet members of the American Legion 854 beforehand, his staff and organizers said.
Parade chairman Marty Kielawa said three high school and three elementary school marching bands dropped out earlier in the day and the parade was shortened by five blocks. All told, roughly 1,000 spectators watched the parade, one-third of normal attendance.
“I wouldn’t have canceled under any circumstances. The people who came out are die-hards,” said Kielawa, adding he wanted to remember the soldiers who gave their lives for the country.
Valley Stream resident Venitra Matthews, 46, said her son was supposed to play the trombone in the parade but his school backed out because of the weather.
Still, they stuck around to watch the festivities.
“We wanted to show our support for the veterans,” Matthews said.
With Tara Conry and David Reich-Hale