Greenpoint’s Vanishing Parades
For years the local Memorial Day Parade was a big event. Hundreds of people came out to honor the veterans who fought and sometimes died defending the country. However, last year the Memorial Day Parade was canceled. In the past, Greenpoint had many veterans and organizations like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars were large active organizations. Today, though, there are too few committed local veterans to stage a parade.
Many of the older veterans have died off and many of the younger people who have moved into the neighborhood have never done military service. Memorial Day is now more about barbecuing than recalling our nation’s veterans, but Memorial Day is not the only parade that has disappeared. Here’s footage from the 2015 Greenpoint Memorial Day Parade for those who have not witnessed the parade before:
It is hard to imagine how big Memorial Day celebrations were after the first and second World Wars. People were five deep along with parts of the parade route and there were hundreds of local veterans who proudly marched through the streets. Pete McGuinness used to organize boisterous parades before local men marched off to serve in the military before America’s entry into World War I. McGuinness would often ride a white horse and carry an American flag in these local sendoffs.
One of the features of old Greenpoint was its many parades. Pete McGuinness once joked that every time our area got a new light pole we would have a parade, but he was only exaggerating a little. Greenpoint had huge parades for civic celebrations like the first run of the G train or the opening of McCarren Park pool. Thousands of people would march with a full contingent of bands and even floats. Churches marked their jubilees with large marches in which all the local parish school kids marched in school uniforms.
For many years Brooklyn kids had no public school in the beginning of June because of Anniversary Day, which was a day Protestant Sunday Schools from all over the borough marched with hundreds of thousands of children participating. Local Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes once presided over 300,000 marching children, but Anniversary Day is now just a distant memory.
There is one local parade that still is going strong: the parade of the Little League. Local Little Leaguers have marched through the streets for 60 years. Many local adults fondly look back on their days playing in the Little League and recall with great pleasure walking through the streets dressed in their team uniforms and carrying the Little League banner.
On Good Friday, local Hispanic churches mark the solemn religious occasion with a procession and there is still a parade in Williamsburg to celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings. The parades gave Greenpoint a warm, intimate, small-town flavor. Today, many long-time residents regret the disappearance of the parades as a sign that our area has lost its small-town ambiance.