Getting Answers: Chicopee resident concerned there will be no Memorial Day parade, but city has other plans in place

Memorial Day weekend is almost here and many residents in Chicopee have voiced their disappointment as the city enters another holiday weekend without a parade.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 5:25 PM EDT

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Memorial Day weekend is almost here and many residents in Chicopee have voiced their disappointment as the city enters another holiday weekend without a parade.

Western Mass News spoke with Stephanie Shaw, Director of Veteran Services in Chicopee who told us the decision came from the Chicopee Veterans Memorial Patriotic Committee.

Shaw said they felt it was more appropriate to have a somber day to remember those who never made it home.

For years the Chicopee Memorial Day parade was a tradition in the city and some Chicopee residents are sharing why they’re sad to see it go.

“They honor us they risk their life for us and you’re going to take it away, it’s like they don’t matter what they did didn’t matter,” said Wendy Presz.

Wendy Presz buried her fiancé, Thomas Rocky McKinnon just this week, she told us he was a veteran and former corporal in the marines. Presz shared with us that after losing her fiancé so close to Memorial Day, she would have liked to attend the parade to celebrate his memory.

“I think he would like the parade back and he would want to spread the word what they did for us and tell stories about the marines,” said Presz.

We reached out to the city’s Director of Veteran Services, Stephanie Shaw, she said 2018 was the last year they held the parade.

Shaw explained that in 2019 it was rained out and when 2020 came, that year the city had plans to cancel the parade, and honor U.S. Army Master Sgt. Luis Deleon-Figueroa of Chicopee who passed away in Afghanistan.

“The committee that facilitates Memorial Day felt that it was going to be very inappropriate to go from a parade setting to a memorial dedication with his family there,” said Shaw. “We want to be very respectful and solemn for their loss.”

But then the COVID -19 pandemic hit and they were forced to push it back.

Shaw told Western Mass News last year was the first year the community seemed to notice there was no parade and she feels a lot of misinformation has been circling around the city.

“I see what’s going on social media and I see you people are saying, but that’s not the platform to advocate for change,” said Shaw. “It’s the city itself, I don’t plan that parade.”

She explained the Chicopee Veterans Memorial Patriotic Committee chooses and plans the events and her office helps execute and facilitate what they decide.

“The committee never felt comfortable with the parade it’s supposed to be a somber moment, they wanted a procession or a march,” said Shaw. “We have Armed Forces Day for those who are still serving, we have Veterans’ Day for those who used to wear the uniform and Memorial Day is for those who never made it out of their uniform so don’t thank a veteran on Memorial Day. I have lost too many brothers and sisters in service to feel that that’s appropriate, Veterans’ Day is my day and I probably wear my hat on that day, but Monday is for Sgt. Taylor and Sgt., De Leon Figueroa and Wilson and Dupont and every other name we have memorialize in the city Monday is for them.”

Shaw added another reason for the cancellation, traffic control issues.

“As traffic increased, we couldn’t go through certain intersections because where we started near the Springfield line so we couldn’t do that, so we shorten the parade route,” said Shaw.

The committee also felt participation wasn’t there.

“There wasn’t a presence on the sidelines of the parade,” said Shaw. “There weren’t enough volunteers because they were struggling to get participation in the parade, and they never wanted a parade.”

Now Shaw said there are ongoing discussions about holding a parade on another day in the future. But for those missing a loved one this year, Shaw encourages everyone who wants to celebrate Memorial Day, to do so with their friends and family.

“Honor that person how they feel the person want to be honored,” said Shaw.

That’s exactly how Presz plans to remember her fiancé this weekend.

“Going to my friend were going to have a picture of him and a barbecue,” said Presz.

Shaw said anyone looking to help plan a future parade or other events is welcome to contact the Chicopee Veterans Services Office or apply to join the city’s veterans committee.

This year there are lots of events in the city to commemorate those men and women who died in uniform.

Here’s the full list:

  • Thursday May 25, 2023 @3:00 PM we will dedicate the addition of Matthew Kowal’s plaque to the Bullen’s Park Memorial. Post Office, Center St, Chicopee.
  • Thursday May 25, 2023 @6:00pm, the Department of Veteran’s Services and Office of Mayor John Vieau held the Charles H. Tracy award ceremony at the Chicopee City Hall Auditorium honoring Chicopee’s Veteran of the year, Brian Belanger.
  • Friday, May 26, 2023 beginning at 8:30, local veteran organizations will be visiting Chicopee grammar and middle schools, with a Memorial Service, a brief history of Memorial Day and placing of a wreath at school flag poles, followed by the pledge of allegiance and National Anthem.
  • Sunday, May 28th at the Vietnam Veterans’ Plaza on Chicopee Street there will be a Candle-light Ceremony at 7:00 pm hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of Western Massachusetts Chapter one-eleven.
  • Monday May 29, 2023 at 10:30 am, we will host our Annual Memorial Day Ceremony with the wreath laying at our Veterans Memorial Plaza located at 460 Front Street, Chicopee, MA 01013.

The public is invited to all the 2023 Memorial Day activities with the exception to school visits.