In a year when every major event or festivity was either canceled or postponed, 2020 seemed to offer us a weekly reminder that life as we knew it had been changed.
Yet, perhaps the first real sting of the COVID cancellations came when it was announced that Cheshire would not be having its annual Memorial Day Parade.
While many other Connecticut towns turn out to celebrate the Fourth of July with a parade around town, Cheshire reserves its only such event for the one day a year set aside to honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice while in service to our country. Though the parade itself is filled with music and floats and cheering crowds, the purpose of the day is to remind everyone that American freedom has and continues to come at a very high cost.
But in 2020, it all came to a stop. Yes, the Veteran’s Council in Cheshire was still able to have a very small gathering to lay a wreath at the monument on the green in front of First Congregational Church, ensuring that the holiday would not go by unnoticed, but it wasn’t the same.
Now, the event is set to return … although in an altered state.
As The Herald chronicles this week, when the Parade Committee met at the beginning of January, the future still looked very uncertain. The rollout of the vaccines had just begun in earnest a few weeks prior, case rates for the virus remained higher than desired, and there was no guarantee that many, if any, of the pandemic-related restrictions would be lifted by the time Memorial Day rolled around. In that environment, Committee members were forced to make some tough decisions.
Luckily, while it was decided that the parade, as per usual, would not be held this year, the commitment was made to ensure that something similar was. The Committee settled on a motorcade, one involving veterans only, to drive the streets of Cheshire, inviting residents out to their front lawns to wave and cheer as America’s bravest pass by.
Of course, everyone’s preference would have been for the full parade to commence, with floats and bands and fife and drum corps playing patriotic tunes. But something is profoundly better than nothing, and with organizers announcing that, as of now, more veterans have committed to take part than is customary in a normal year, the Memorial Day motorcade will actual provide spectators with the opportunity to say “thank you” in ways they perhaps haven’t in the past.
In some respects, the altered event is indicative of where things stand in the state and nation at the moment. Things aren’t quite back to normal, but they are slowly getting there. By the time the veteran’s motorcade begins touring around Cheshire on May 30, most of the pandemic-related restrictions initiated at the beginning of the crisis will have been lifted. Vaccinations continue to progress, and virus-related numbers statewide continue to look better and better.
The light at the end of the tunnel can be seen, but we aren’t there just yet. So the parade, like life itself, will still have to account for the reality of the virus. It will still have to deal, in some way, with our COVID world.
But the important thing is that something is happening. The event has returned, and residents will have their chance to honor the men and women of the Armed Forces, while simultaneously recognizing the sacrifices of those who can’t be here to celebrate with us.
The Committee did what was necessary last year by canceling the parade and ensuring that everyone remained as safe as possible in a world navigating the beginning parts of the COVID crisis. Now, it is doing the right thing by bringing the event back to Cheshire.