A few spectators dotted the short parade route Monday morning in downtown Ellsworth to watch as a handful of veterans marched along the streets for the city’s annual Memorial Day parade.
Rainy weather kept turnout low at the event, which is usually held annually but was not staged in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fewer than 100 people gathered outside City Hall immediately after the parade to watch as wreaths were placed in front of the city’s veterans’ memorial. None of the bands from local schools participated in the parade this year because pandemic precautions have prevented students, many of whom have yet to be vaccinated, from being able to practice.
It felt important and gratifying to many in attendance to be able to gather again to remember military veterans who have passed away.
Local resident Ed Grohoski, 72, served three years in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, including one in the Southeast Asian country, and saluted crisply during Monday’s wreath-laying ceremonies at the Route 1 bridge over the Union River and at City Hall. He said remembering others who have served and passed away is important to him, though he wasn’t sure he would attend the parade when he woke up Monday to pouring rain.
“My whole family is military,” he said, adding his father served 33 years in the Navy during World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
A retired electrician, Grohoski said he kept busy this past year with volunteer electrical work for nonprofits, but he maintained social distancing and wore a mask when he ventured out. Grohoski was not wearing a mask at Monday’s wreath-laying ceremony — no one else was, either — but he greeted people with fist bumps instead of shaking hands.
Grohoski said he spent a lot of time this past year at home, chopping wood and building two stone walls on his property. He said he and his wife tried to order takeout often to help support local businesses during the worst of the pandemic.
“It meant staying away from everyone,” he said. “Tip well! Keep the community going and rolling along. It’s nice finally getting out and about.”
Daniel Sullivan, commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 109, said that not having a parade in 2020 was difficult to accept, though the post did have a small ceremony last year at its hall on East Main Street.
“We were limited to 10 people,” Sullivan said. “It was heartbreaking.”
Holding the parade this year was a positive step, he said, but he hopes there will be a bigger parade and a bigger turnout in 2022. Getting the school bands back in the parade will be a top priority next year.
“Maybe next year they won’t have to wear the damn masks,” Sullivan said.
Local resident Cheyenne Smith stood on the side of School Street with her three young children as the short parade passed by. She said the past year has been “pretty crazy” and that she was sad when the city’s 2020 Memorial Day parade was canceled.
Smith said the holiday is important to her, as her great-grandfather fought in Pearl Harbor in World War II and her grandfather served in Korea.
“It’s definitely a special day to remember,” she said. “We’re happy to be out and breathing the fresh air. I’m ready to get back to normal.”