Bringing out a lawn chair and sitting on the side of Hempstead Turnpike usually isn’t the best of ideas. But on this Memorial Day, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect, unwind and enjoy the day’s events.
It’s rare to see Hempstead Turnpike, one of the main roads in Levittown, completely shut down. This, though, is no ordinary day.
This year’s annual Levittown Memorial Day Parade on May 27 was as abundant as ever, with thousands of people coming together, block-after-block, for one of New York State’s largest parades. As the sun shined brightly, America’s red, white and blue colors filled the streets, as children, parents and veterans alike marched down Hempstead Turnpike, featuring plenty of music, dozens of classic cars and much more.
The parade kicked off at 10 a.m. It started at Island Trees Middle School, turning left onto Hempstead Turnpike. From there, marchers proceeded west until they reached Veterans Memorial Park. The parade was so large that it took two hours until the final group reached the park.
Councilman Dennis Dunne Sr. summed up the day perfectly, saying, “Thank you, boys,” as Levittown VFW Post 9592’s firing squad took center stage near the front of the park. Silence overtook the massive crowd as the guns were loaded and fired into the air, with the American flag being raised to full-staff as the clock struck noon.
“The parade doesn’t happen by accident,” Dunne said. “We have people working on it constantly. We’re always one of the largest in the state, and it doesn’t happen by accident.”
Dunne praised Mike Nelson from the Levittown Youth Council, who helped gather dozens upon dozens of Levittown’s youngest citizens for the parade. Additionally, Dunne and other local dignitaries cheered on each group as they crossed the parade’s finish line.
Among those who marched included VFW Post 9592, the Levittown Youth Council, Levittown Pride cheerleaders, the Levittown Public Schools Board of Education, Korean War Veterans of Nassau County, bands from each school in the Levittown Public Schools system and Island Trees School District, the American Legion, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Long Island Living History Association, Levittown Historical Society, Northside School, the Levittown Chamber of Commerce, the GC Tech Key Club, the Knights of Columbus, Levittown Public Library, Catholic Daughters of America, the Levittown Fire Department, the Wantagh-Levittown Volunteer Ambulance Corps., Daisy Troops and the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association.
Father Ralph Sommer from St. Bernard’s Church began the parade with a prayer before marching with the Levittown Fire Department. To conclude the spectacle, Father Joe Nohs, also from St. Bernard’s, honored America’s fallen service members.
“Remembering those who have passed is only half of our task today,” Father Nohs said. “We need to make certain that our children know who they are, what they are and why they did it. To do anything else would be a disservice to their service and their memories.”
Longtime Levittown resident Mario Dell’Aera was named as Grand Marshal for the parade.
The U.S. Air Force veteran first served in 1952 during the Korean War. From 1952-56, he called the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas home. He worked on planes and train pilots to fly overseas. Additionally, Dell’Aera watched the military test the atomic bomb in the Nevada desert.
But for this hero, being Grand Marshal is one of the most special moments of his life.
“It’s an honor I never thought I would have,” Dell’Aera said. “It makes me feel like a celebrity, but I’m not.”
Following the parade, the Levittown Fire Department held its annual Memorial Day service to honor all the fallen at Station No. 1, conducted by Chief Steven Hervan. The VFW and American Legion also held ceremonies after the parade.