Union’s Memorial Day parade paying tribute to fallen heroes

UNION, NJ — Union will celebrate Memorial Day with its annual parade on Monday, May 30, as a tribute to those who have died in service.

The parade, which will kick off at the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Vauxhall Road, will feature floats, show cars, Clydesdale horses, military units and vehicles, a civil war cannon, the Uptown String Band, Civil War reenactors, more than 72 marching units, as well as many civic and youth organizations.

According to Bob Johnsen of the VFW and chairman of the Union Veteran’s Alliance Memorial Day Parade committee, preparations for the parade began in September, with the committee hard at work all year preparing for the event.

Johnsen, a nine-year war veteran, said that the parade will have a wide variety of entertainment and events. “We wanted to make the parade bigger and better because we want people to come out and pay their respects to those who gave their lives,” Johnsen told LocalSource. “They made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan, a long-time advocate and supporter of veterans, will serve as this year’s Grand Marshal. “It’s an honor to lead the Memorial Day parade, and whatever service and support I’ve provided to veterans over the years simply pales in relation to the efforts these heroes have done in securing our country,” Cryan told LocalSource. “I’ll be marching with officers from the sheriff’s department who will carry flags representing each branch of service, in a small attempt to show appreciation for all who have served. The freedoms I and all of us cherish are because of the people we honor on Memorial Day, and as I walk down Stuyvesant Ave, that will be the thought I carry with me,” he said.

Cryan said he hopes for a large turnout. “I hope everyone comes out to watch a very wonderful and growing parade with the revolutionary war reenactments, bands, many civic groups, organizations, veterans who march, and veterans we remember, on this very solemn but special day. I’m grateful to the committee for selecting me.”

Johnsen said that the committee raises about $15,000 to hold the parade — funds raised through a variety of fundraisers, including raffles and annual doo-wop dinner dance — and the results have been remarkable. “Five or six years ago, it was a 20-minute parade,” said Johnsen. “Now it’s much longer. It’s turned into a really nice program. And the township committee supports our parade 100 percent.”

Johnsen said that there will be many activities for kids to enjoy, such as military and emergency vehicles to climb on, and Italian ices and hot dogs given out to all kids who march in the parade.

The closing ceremony will be held at Veteran’s Honor Roll and Memorial Park, where spectators can witness a Revolutionary War reenactment as well as live cannon fire. There will also be a special event featuring members of the Operation Rebound racing team who will be performing demonstrations on how hand cycles are used by their disabled veterans and racing counterparts.

On May 29, residents can stop by Freiberger Park, located behind town hall, where there will be a Memorial Day Encampment featuring historical demonstrations and displays. The program runs from 1 to 6 p.m.

For more information visit www.uniontownship.com.