Memorial Day parade salutes those who served
WESTPORT — Few people know the importance and real scope of the Memorial Day parade and post-parade ceremony better than William “Bill” Vornkahl, for he’s been organizing it for nearly 50 years now.
“This is our day to honor our fallen comrades,” said the Korean War vet, who was born in Westport and has lived here 89 years.
Once again “Mr. Parade,” as many call him, outdid himself with one of the most popular events in the community, which drew thousands of spectators and more than a thousand participants.
It was a sunny day for the parade, which kicked off from Saugatuck School on Riverside Avenue, turned across the Post Road bridge, went left onto Myrtle Avenue, and ended in front of Town Hall for a ceremony on Veterans Green.
“Bill has been the maestro of this special event for the last 48 years,” noted First Selectman Jim Marpe.
This year’s parade featured World War II veteran Nick Zeoli in the role of grand marshal. There were also 45 separate organizations marching, riding in cars and on floats, or playing marching music as the crowds waved flags and cheered.
“I haven’t ever missed a parade,” said Nancy Kondub-Harris, of New Canaan, who grew up in town and still returns for the day.
“I lived here all my life and it’s just a tradition,” she said. “My family has been here since 1914, so we don’t miss a parade.”
Along with the fun and excitement of the parade itself, however, there were also moments of solemnity in the Veterans Green ceremony, which included recognition of the service people from town who lost their lives in wars.
“This year’s theme of our parade is ‘Thank a Veteran,’ ” Marpe said. “Our veterans are our heroes. It’s a simple but fitting theme.”