For William Winspear, a senior at Cardinal O’Hara High School, Monday’s Memorial Day Parade in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda offered a chance to dress up as the school’s mascot, in a hawk costume, though he wished the weather had been a little cooler.
For Aline Herion, it was the chance to honor veterans like her father, who was in the Navy, and to introduce her niece and 3-year-old great-nephew, Cameron, to a Northtowns tradition.
And for Dan Starr, who served in the Army in Korea after the fighting was over, it was an opportunity to return to his hometown, where he recalled seeing veterans from World War II, World War I and the Spanish-American War in the parade.
“A little nostalgia. I grew up in Kenmore. I went to my first one of these in, probably, 1946 or ’47, after the war,” said Starr, who marched in the parade as a member of Boy Scout Troop 29 and later served as Canisius College’s athletic director.
Winspear’s discomfort aside, the weather gods smiled on Herion, Starr and the thousands of others who came out to watch the annual Memorial Day Parade along Delaware Avenue.
About 50 community groups – including marching bands, volunteer fire companies and fraternal organizations – participated in the 66th edition of the parade.
“He’s a good sport,” Mary Holzerland, Cardinal O’Hara’s principal, said of Winspear, who volunteered for the mascot role, as her students and other groups lined up near Sheridan Drive and Delaware Avenue.
“It’s either 85 degrees or pouring rain,” said one parade regular, Pam Beamer, who was getting ready to go off with the group of Irish dancers from Clann Na Cara, where her daughters Elise, 12, and Olivia, 10, take lessons.
Thomas Yager, the fire chief of the Kenilworth Fire Company, said the volunteers brought along a pumper, a medium-duty rescue truck and a recently retired 1968 pumper.
“Kids always love fire trucks,” Yager said.
The crowds enjoying the blue skies and warm sunshine were six deep along much of the route, with children, parents and seniors decked out in patriotic colors to honor those who gave their lives for their country.
“I don’t think the United States does enough for our veterans,” said Lucy Messina, of the Town of Tonawanda, who was there with her husband, Jim, who served in the Army in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.
The parade mixed the traditional and nontraditional, with Queen City Roller Girls skating a few groups ahead of the kilted Caledonian Pipe Band.
Don Fletcher, an Army veteran and owner of Fletcher’s bar on Delaware Avenue, said his employees were kept busy grilling hot dogs.
“We sold out quicker than we ever have,” he said.
Longtime parade attendees said there seemed to be more police on patrol than usual. Town of Tonawanda Police Lt. Nicholas Bado confirmed that, and he also said police, for the first time, shut down Delaware Avenue before the parade and sent bomb-sniffing dogs through.
The Boston Marathon attack was on the minds of many.
“Absolutely. Especially for your kids. You worry if you can take them anywhere. But you can’t live in fear,” said Kristine Dziuba, who was with Jason Walker and their daughter, Sabrina, 1.
The parade is organized by the town’s Youth, Parks and Recreation Department, with help from village officials and leaders of veterans’ groups.