Nation’s oldest Memorial Day Parade marches in Bay Ridge

Nation’s oldest Memorial Day Parade marches in Bay Ridge
Photo by Steve Solomonson

There’s no question which borough best remembers its soldiers — just look for which one has the longest-running Memorial Day Parade.

The nation’s oldest cavalcade honoring fallen servicemen marched for the 146th time on May 27, just blocks away from where the British invaded the Narrows in 1776 and started the first major battle of the Revolutionary War.

Onlookers thronged the sidewalks along the parade route, which began at the corner of 87th Street and Third Avenue, and ended in Cannonball Park at 101st Street and Fourth Avenue. Many in the crowd were veterans, who said they found the patriotism in the audience inspiring, but the procession brought back painful memories of lost brothers-in-arms.

“I’m happy to see the people out, and to share their appreciation for those who have given their lives for freedom,” said Carlton Garrett, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, who traveled to Bay Ridge from his home in Crown Heights to watch the parade.

The stars of the show were the veterans — ranging from World War II through Afghanistan — who marched or rode in cars. The retired warriors said they felt honored to take part in the parade, but argued that the true heroes were those who died in service to their country.

“There were a lot of braver men than I who did not make it back, and they are the ones who we should be thinking about on a day like today,” said parade participant Joseph “Donuts” Lovascio, a Bay Ridge native who served in one of the earliest air force divisions over Vietnam.

Parade organizer Ray Aalbue, another Vietnam-era air force vet, said the display of community admiration for the lost soldiers was overwhelming.

“The crowd along the parade route was enormous, and the support of the neighborhood, the support of Brooklyn, you could really feel it when we were coming down,” Aalbue said.

The fanfare featured numerous politicians, including Borough President Markowitz, who led the parade as grand marshal, State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge), Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge), and Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Bay Ridge). A battery of mayoral hopefuls also turned out, with Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, former Metropolitan Transportation Agency chairman Joe Lhota, and former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion all pounding the pavement down Third Avenue.

Catsimatidis donated $5,000 of his own money to the parade. State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Crown Heights) — who is running to replace the term-limited Markowitz — and Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island), who is challenging Congressman Michael Grimm (R-Bay Ridge), both appeared in the panoply.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.