“It’s a community that’s very patriotic and friendly. Everyone knows each other, and it continues to be that way,” said Anna Marie Verbil, who has attended the parade with her family every year.
She said that even as some of her family has moved out of the area, they continue to converge at the parade every year.
“It’s a lot of fun, and we get family time together,” she said, adding that the parade had retained much of the same feel it had when it first started. “It’s changed, but it’s mainly the same. The enthusiasm of the crowd and the spirit is always there.”
The parade, which was this year themed “Maspeth Salutes the Star Spangled Banner,” featured performances that have become much-loved traditions in the community, including music from the Christ the King Marching Band and the Maritime Band.
Revelers also enjoyed a dose of nostalgia, as vintage cars from the L.I. Antique Car Club and East Coast Car Association took to the road.
“This is a huge family tradition for us,” said Sheree DiGiovanna, as she and her family sat outside their home in picnic chairs watching the parade. “It’s a great, strong community, and this has been passed down from generation to generation. Maspeth is very proud of their veterans, and this is a special way to honor them.”
Numerous children’s organizations were represented in the parade, with young members of numerous Girl and Boy Scout troops hitting the streets.
Deodett Chhakowri, who along with his wife Pearly has been attending the parade annually since they moved to Maspeth 10 years ago, said the parade was especially important as a means of educating young people about the contributions of veterans.
“I think [the parade] is very important because it’s very educational for the younger generation to know what took place,” he said.
As the parade wound down, community members gathered for a ceremony at Maspeth Memorial Park, featuring musical selections and numerous ceremonial traditions, including the placing of wreaths, the release of doves, and the folding of the flag.
The United Veterans and Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, which sponsors the parade, also paid tribute to local youngsters. Alexandra Tili, a fifth grader at PS 153, and Nicholas Connamo, a seventh grader at IS 73, were awarded first place in the organization’s annual essay contest.
Mary Vavruska, a Brooklyn Tech student and Girl Scout in Troop #4618, was awarded the Maspeth Citizen Award for her work in collecting and sending 20 boxes of goods to stationed soldiers.
The men of the hour, however, were Maspeth residents and World War II veterans James Desio and William Aronowicz, who served as the parade’s grand marshals. Aronowicz said he would never forget the day.
“It was wonderful,” he said, his eyes gleaming. “It’s an honor I’ll always remember.”
Although Aronowicz only moved to Maspeth five years ago, he says the community is very much his home.
“I love it here,” he said. “I have more friends in Maspeth than anywhere I’ve ever lived. I sit outside on my chair, and people always stop by and ask me how the tomatoes I’m growing are doing.”
James Desio said he felt honored by the large turnout.
“It’s an honor seeing all the people who came to thank us,” he said. “Everyone deserves that.”
He said that his thoughts that day, as they often are, were with those who didn’t make it back from fighting. His brother John was one such hero, losing his life at the age of 26 while fighting in WWII.
“I think of him everyday,” he said. “We all have to go, but not in that way.”