South Berkshire towns answer call for Memorial Day wave parades

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A wave of patriotism will sweep over the Southern Berkshires next week to honor local veterans, especially those who died defending our country.

At the suggestion of state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, several towns in his 4th Berkshire District plan to hold wave parades on Memorial Day. He hopes veterans will ride in vehicles to lead each parade, followed by police, fire and ambulance vehicles, allowing residents to cheer the veterans and first responders on predetermined route through those communities.

The wave parades would replace traditional Memorial Day parades and ceremonies, many of which have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"What a shame we've had to cancel parades for people who have done so much for us," Pignatelli said. "We can't let [Memorial Day] go by without honoring those who made the supreme sacrifice."

Last week, Pignatelli wrote to municipal officials in his 20-town district encouraging them to hold wave parades after seeing the enthusiastic response to a wave parade recently held for a cousin celebrating a birthday. Wave parades have become popular during the COVID-19 pandemic as a safer way to celebrate children's birthdays or unite students and their school communities, for example.

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"I have countless childhood memories spent at the Lenox Memorial parade and one of my favorite activities of the year is being able to participate in the Memorial Day parades throughout South County as your state representative," he wrote in his email. "The fact that the pandemic is postponing the parades throughout the Berkshires doesn't sit right with me."

The dean of the Berkshire legislative delegation says his hometown of Lenox along with Lee, Stockbridge and Sheffield,  so far, are planning veterans wave parades.

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"Honoring our veterans is important," Lee Selectman David Consolati said. "A lot of people gave their lives for this country and we need to honor that, accept that."

Lee's wave parade will close with a brief ceremony at the church park next to Memorial Town Hall, built in honor of the town's Civil War dead. At 1 p.m., the central fire station whistle will blow, signaling townspeople to observe 30 seconds of silence to remember all veterans.

Pittsfield announced earlier this month, the city had scaled back its Memorial Day activities, but will still pay tribute to past and present veterans at 8 a.m. Monday at Pittsfield Cemetery.

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Marine Corps veteran John Harding will mark the occasion by raising the American flag followed by playing a recorded version of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Since the ceremony isn't open to the public, Pittsfield Community Television will broadcast the event live so residents can watch from home.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.

This story has been modified to remove references to West Stockbridge.


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