If you happen to be within walking distance of the border between Nassau and Queens counties in New York, you can see an event that not even many who live in the area realize is the nation’s largest tribute to the most traditional of national Memorial Day happenings.
And, if you’re still in the general vicinity, yet far enough that you can’t travel by foot, the annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day parade is still worth the trip each year.
Just how big is the nation’s largest Memorial Day parade? Well, the website name — www.memorialdayparade.org — which might have been for any memorial day parade in the nation, is the online home specifically for the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day parade (note: the website was a little outdated at the time this article was written).
Starting from the firehouse on the Nassau county side at the corner of Northern Boulevard and Jayson Avenue in Great Neck, the parade runs west on Northern Boulevard, stretching over the county border into Queens, going into Little Neck, before ending at the Saint Anastasia church courtyard in Douglaston.
Along the 1.1-mile stretch of road, thousands of parade goers clad in the colors of the American flag line each side of Northern Boulevard, waving and paying homage to hundreds of military honorees, bands, politicians (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently took part), and other distinguished guests such as New York Mets’ mascot Mr. Met and old-town wild west cowboys galloping down the street on horseback.
In all, nearly 200 individual units are expected to march in the 85th edition of the parade (which started in 1927) to take place once again this year on Memorial Day, May 30th, beginning at 2 pm ET, rain or shine.
While the parade always has a strong patriotic feel, nationalistic sentiments might be even greater for this year’s parade, since the celebration will close a month that began with the United States’ Navy SEAL Team Six finally bringing long-awaited justice upon anti-American terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Should you get hungry, there are many places along each side of the parade route to grab a quick snack, sandwich, or a variety of tasty frozen treats (although this will sadly be the first parade in decades with the legendary Scobee Diner no longer in business).
The parade is fun for everyone from kids and pets to the oldest parade attendee or fellow veteran coming out to honor those who routinely sacrifice everything to protect our nation’s freedom.
There’s also the chance that after a two-year absence, the free unlimited hot dogs, White Castles hamburgers, and drinks could return to the Saint Anastasia courtyard, where the traditional stage is set up for the parade’s closing ceremonies, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 pm ET this year. There might also be some live music there as in past years.
But, that’s not all that the area has to offer for Memorial Day weekend.
If you’re seeking a smaller, earlier parade as an appetizer, less than one mile east from the Jayson Avenue firehouse on Northern Boulevard, and a few blocks north, the annual Great Neck Memorial Day parade begins near the Great Neck train station, moving north on Middle Neck Road, starting at about 9:30 am ET and lasting for about a half-hour on Memorial Day morning.
And, if that’s still not enough, two nights earlier, the Town of North Hempstead hosts a terrific free, annual fireworks show (after 9pm ET) set to patriotic music over the water at North Hempstead Beach Park/Bar Beach in nearby Port Washington (on West Shore Road), following a long afternoon and evening of free live music and other festivities at the same location. Arrive early as the crowd tends to grow toward nightfall. Regular parking ($5) at the park fills up quickly and additional free parking up the road is a fairly long walk from the park. The later you get to the secondary parking, the longer you’ll wait for a shuttle bus to the park.
Whether new to any of the celebrations or not, attending all three events is a fun-filled and quite appropriate way to capture the true spirit of Memorial Day weekend.