Memorial Day parades scheduled in West Haven, Shelton/Derby, with pandemic rules

The West Haven and Shelton/Derby Memorial Day parades will go on this year to honor the nation’s fallen soldiers, but some area communities are putting parades on hold, opting instead for ceremonies that can be livestreamed.

West Haven’s parade will come with restrictions regarding social distancing and other directives from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Public Health, as well as city Health Director Maureen Lillis, including none of those souvenir carts kids love.

“I am very excited that Gov. Ned Lamont has authorized parades in Connecticut this year,” Mayor Nancy R. Rossi said. “For more than a century, our Memorial Day parade has been a patriotic tradition that families in West Haven have looked forward to and participated in to commemorate the unwavering courage and selfless sacrifice of our great American heroes.”

West Haven has put out the call for veterans, civic groups, fraternal organizations, service clubs and marching bands to participate in the city’s parade, which steps off at 10:30 a.m. May 31.

The parade in West Haven will take place in accordance with federal and state guidelines, Lillis said.

The city will follow all current and future directives by the CDC and the state “to ensure the health and safety of both parade participants and spectators,” according to a city statement.

The parade grand marshals in West Haven are World War II veteran Frank Corso, who served in the Army Air Forces from 1942-45, and Korean War veteran Salvatore Gullo, who served in the Navy from 1948-52.

Most municipalities canceled parades last year because of the pandemic.

James “Chic” Tortora, chairman of the Shelton/Derby parade — a popular one that draws thousands — said the parade will happen May 31, rain or shine and no matter how many marchers they have in the lineup.

He expects by then many more will be vaccinated and the virus numbers will be down, Tortora said.

Tortora said they have about 40 marching units so far, a slower start than usual, and he’s looking for more. There were 80 units in the 2019 parade, he said. Those interested in joining the parade can email him at chicfm126@aol.com.

He said some organizations aren’t participating because of COVID and there may be issues with high school bands because they haven’t had the ability to practice together this year.

“The parade will go on with whatever we have — we’re on the move,” Tortora said. “Our mission is to honor those who gave up their lives for us.”

In Ansonia and Milford, the parades are canceled again this year. Instead, other quiet events are planned to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country.

Milford is opting out of a parade this year, in part, because its parade committee chairman said there is “conflicting” information from the state, despite Lamont giving parades the green light.

“The Covid-19 trend is currently going in the wrong direction,” Tom Flowers, chairman of Milford’s Veterans Ceremonies and Parade Commission, wrote in an email to Milford Mayor Ben Blake. “We are limited to 500 people for outdoor municipal events and a traditional parade would far exceed that number,”

Like many other communities, Milford is holding ceremonies on the most somber of veterans’ holidays. In Milford, those ceremonies and a concert will be livestreamed, with details to come.

In Ansonia, a ceremony will be held the Sunday before Memorial Day at City Hall; in Milford, a concert will be livestreamed at 1 p.m. and ceremony at 2 p.m., with details to follow in coming weeks.

“Unfortunately with the optic in the pandemic in our area, we cannot ensure safe atmosphere for a parade system,” said Rich DiCarlo, Ansonia events coordinator and chairman of the parade. “It involves a max assembly of the participants in a small area that would far exceed current restrictions set forth by the state at the setup. This process usually takes couple of hours.”

Flowers said they considered the issue carefully, but decided against a parade even though the governor approved them, because there is “conflicting” information, including a limit of 500 people at outdoor events.

“We’ve been on the fence for a while,” Flowers said. At this point, he said, there’s not enough time to organize a parade, as it takes at least two months.

Flowers said in the email to Blake that there were other factors that went into the decision, including that he was told by a school district official that the Foran and Jonathan Law high school marching bands could not commit to participating because of mandated restrictions on band activities, such as for spacing and masking.

The Milford Volunteer Ancient Fife and Drum also follows state requirements, he said in the email, and, “These groups are integral to any parade we stage.”

Flowers said Milford Director of Public Health Deepa Joseph agreed a ceremony would be the way to go.

In North Haven, First Selectman Michael Freda said a Memorial Day parade will be held May 29, but he envisions a scaled-down version of the usual parade because some people will decline to participate.

“It is our goal to balance safety and precaution with getting back to a sense of normalcy, while still honoring our veterans who so faithfully served,” Freda said.

Back in West Haven, rules for the city’s parade so far are as follows:

— No vendors of any kind are allowed along the parade route, which goes up Campbell Avenue from Captain Thomas Boulevard to Center Street.

— Marchers and participants must wear face masks in accordance with CDC and DPH guidelines.

— People must maintain social distancing of 6 feet while marching or participating while driving or riding in a car or on a truck, float or trailer.

— Marching bands must maintain social distancing of 9 feet while playing.

— The city has the right to refuse a group or an organization from participating at the time of the parade if the rules are not obeyed.

Parade organizers said participants must register and list required special accommodations for the parade, which has no rain date.

West Haven will provide transportation for veterans who are unable to walk the 1.5-mile parade course, according to the city. Arrangements can be made by calling the mayor’s office at 203-937-3510.

Participant forms can be downloaded from the city website or picked up at City Hall, 355 Main St. They are due by May 3.

Forms can also be emailed to parade organizer Kristen Teshoney at kteshoney@westhaven-ct.gov or faxed to 203-937-3705.

For information regarding parades in your community, contact City or Town Hall or follow the Register for updates.