One of the biggest goals the United Veterans Parade Committee of Greater New York had this year was to increase attendance at their annual Bronx Veterans Day Parade.
The committee engaged a different part of the community for its support: grade school students.
To get the attention of the different schools for the 33rd parade the committee sent formal invitations to dozens of schools in the borough.
These invitations included the option to participate in a $250 prize writing contest.
Of the invitations sent, 15 schools signed up to ‘sponsor a block’ of the parade, an idea thought up by committee member Dana Carotenuto.
“I’ve lived in Throggs Neck my whole life… I go to the Veterans Day Parade every year. I went last year and it was disheartening to see the streets empty,” Carotenuto said.
“There should be veterans walking down the street with people celebrating them.”
While the parade overall has generally received a lot of community support, the part of the parade route that extends down Randall Avenue is where the crowd seemed most thin.
“Every school that signed up has been encouraged to adopt a block from Randall Avenue,” Carotenuto continued.
One school, St. Theresa’s Elementary, signed up to sponsor the block of Randall just off of East Tremont Avenue.
Principal of the school, Josephine Fanelli, said her school will have a bus ready to bring their students and their parents to and from the parade and Pelham Bay.
These schools also received materials about military veterans so teachers could educate students about the service of veterans within their community and abroad.
Inclusion of the schools, however, is not the only new aspect of the parade according to co-chair of the committee and retired United States Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, Ron Watson.
“This year we’re establishing a color guard made up of teenagers who have not served yet in keeping with this year’s theme: ‘a salute to service and community patriotism,” Watson said.
These initiatives also presented the opportunity to revamp parade interest while also honoring its traditions, like naming noteworthy veterans and members of the community as grand marshals.
This year’s grand marshal, 86-year-old retired USMC master sergeant Christopher J. Devoy from Edgewater, was chosen from a competitive pool of hometown hero military veterans.
“I was just taken aback,” Devoy said when asked about being selected. He also remarked the parade was special because of “the pride of being allowed to serve (in the USMC).”
Along with Devoy, five additional honorary grand marshals will be recognized posthumously as veterans for their service when the parade reaches Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park.
The 33rd annual Bronx Veterans Day Parade will be held on Sunday, November 12 at noon from East Tremont and Lafayette avenues, to a reviewing stand at Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park.
Senator Jeff Klein will host a Veteran’s Day breakfast before the parade at Villa Barone Manor at 9 a.m. To RSVP for the breakfast contact Klein’s office at (718) 822-2049.