Naperville veteran organizations planning downsized Memorial Day parade, ceremonies
The size and scope of Naperville's Memorial Day traditions may be scaled back this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers say it won't diminish their message.
Honoring the soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the military -- including 114 Naperville residents who have died in active duty -- remains at the core of the city's Memorial Day parade and ceremonies planned for May 31, event committee Chairman Tom Parker said.
Parade participants will be limited to members of the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873, American Legion Post 43 and any other veterans in the community who wish to march along a shortened route from the VFW, 908 S. Jackson Ave., to the Dandelion Fountain on the Naperville Riverwalk, he said. Bands from the five Naperville high schools will be stationed along the route, playing patriotic music as veterans pass by.
The downsized parade will be followed by outdoor memorial ceremonies at the Dandelion Fountain and various memorials throughout Naperville from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Parker said. Other sites include the Cmdr. Dan Shanower Sept. 11 memorial, the Naperville Cemetery, Veterans Park, Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery and Burlington Square Park.
The activities will culminate at noon with an observance ceremony at Central Park, 104 E. Benton Ave. The Naperville Municipal Band is expected to participate in the first and last ceremonies.
Naperville's Memorial Day events have historically drawn tens of thousands of spectators, Parker said. After most of last year's activities were canceled, other than a brief small-scale ceremony, he said, he's eager for community members to once again have an opportunity to honor fallen heroes.
"Being able to do a parade this year, in addition to doing several ceremonies around town, is a huge step in getting us back to what we normally do to really drive home the meaning of the day and just get participation and support from the Naperville community," Parker said. "It's not just a holiday to mark the beginning of summer."
Attendees are encouraged to wear masks, practice social distancing and follow all state and public health guidelines.
Community members also are encouraged to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance by observing one minute of silence at 3 p.m.
"There are a lot of people within both organizations (the VFW and American Legion) that know of or personally know individuals who have lost their lives while serving," Parker said. "It has a lot of significance to us as veterans."