Flag Day’s big here and a lot of work, too

HUDSON—It’s a grand old flag and it will be high flying during the 21st annual Flag Day Parade, Saturday, June 10.

The stars and stripes celebrates its 240th birthday June 14, the date the flag was officially adopted by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

But it wasn’t until August 3, 1949, that President Harry S. Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.

The Hudson Flag Day Parade is the largest between New York City and Albany in terms of the combined number of marching units and the number of people who participate, Christine Abitabile told The Columbia Paper this week by phone from Cape Cod, MA.

The Hudson Flag Day Committee Board treasurer and one of the event organizers, Ms. Abitabile has been helping to orchestrate the local event for the past 15 years. She took a few days off this week to unwind before the big day.

So far, 65 units have signed up to participate in the parade, that’s 1,153 people of all ages who will be riding, driving, dancing, playing music and just plain marching through the city in the two-hour-long parade that day.

The number of people who will attend the parade and associated riverfront events each year is estimated at between 10,000 and 12,000.

Over the years, organizers have noticed a slight decline in the number of youth who march, but still the number of overall marching units this year equals last year, said Ms. Abitabile.

Two years ago, Hudson Flag Day Parade, Inc., was formed and was granted 501 (c)(3) public charity status. This allows the Parade Committee Board to apply for grants to help fund the event and accept tax-deductible contributions.

The budget for this year’s event is $46,000, which comes from grants and donations. Top corporate sponsors this year include: Galvan Foundation $5,000; A. Colarusso & Son, Inc. $5,000; Columbia County Tourism $3,000 and the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation $3,000, with donations still coming in. The committee also conducts fundraisers such as the sale of Little Caeser’s Pizza kits, a clam steam and chicken bake, raffles and coin drops.

Money raised pays for the spectacular fireworks display over the Hudson River at the end of the evening ($15,000) and musical entertainment ($18,000). Professional musicians are paid and non-professionals like high school bands receive a donation from the committee for expenses they incur such as getting their uniforms cleaned.

Other Flag Day costs are for tents, parade judges, janitorial services, portable toilets, permits, water, signage, wristbands, hotdogs, and the rental of 15 or 16 electric golf carts, which are primarily used to transport marchers from where they are dropped off to their spot in the parade lineup, said Ms. Abitabile.

The Flag Day Parade Committee, a group of about 12 active volunteer working members now orchestrates the whole Flag Day production previously handled by the Hudson Elks Club and the City of Hudson since 1996, said Ms. Abitabile. Prior to that, Flag Day was observed in a mandatory ritual ceremony by Hudson’s Elks Lodge #787 accompanied by the Hudson High School Band.

Preparation for Flag Day is a “project” in itself, noted Ms. Abitabile, with some arrangements for the next year being put in place as soon as the current Flag Day Parade ends, such as entering into a contract for the services of the fireworks crew and the professional musicians.

Other preparations involve securing permits, licenses, insurance, enlisting vendors, putting safety precautions and a first-aid station in place.

In terms of the parade itself, lists of applicants are recorded and the amount of space they will occupy has to be determined: how many people will be in each unit and will they have vehicles, animals, floats?; and requests for certain places in the line-up have to be met.

Gymnasts, for example prefer not to perform behind horses; and two bands should not be near each other in the line-up.

Ms. Abitabile said it’s her job to assemble all that information on a spread sheet in a data base and it’s up to Chuck Hoffman, “the line-up guru” to translate it all into an agreeable formation.

The committee faced special challenges this year with the stepping down of Gisele and Bob Yusko and Peter and Robin Merante, “They were doers and did a good job for many years,” she said.

Flag Day starts with informational displays and vendors at Seventh Street Park and entertainment featuring singer talented Christina Dellea.

Park activities run from 10 to 11 a.m. followed by the Elks Annual Flag Day Ceremony at 11 a.m. Park activities continue until 1:30 p.m. The parade steps off at 2 p.m. from Green and State streets and moves down Warren Street, ending at the Amtrak Station.

Parade-goers will see a variety of participation from community groups, churches, fire companies, youth groups, and businesses with marchers, vehicles, floats and marching bands.

Returning big bands include: The Hawthorne Caballeros, 20th Century Limited and Brass-O-Mania, along with everyone’s favorite high school marching bands.

Henry Hudson Riverfront Park will be full of vendors, entertainment and an amusement area with rides for the young at heart. Music will be provided by Dusk to Dawn and Side Show Willie. The area’s largest fireworks display, produced by Young Explosives, rounds out the night at about 9 p.m.

For up-to-date information about the parade including the lineup, visit www.hudsonflagdayparade.org.

A bookkeeper and QuickBooks consultant by trade, Ms. Abitabile said she volunteers each year because “everybody loves a parade. This is something that the people who work on do out of a sense of community, not for pay, it’s a community tradition we want to continue.”

Participants don’t have to be anybody special, they can be part of a neighborhood or a local business handing out business cards.” She invited community members to become involved in the planning process. “Everyone has ideas and we’d love to share them.”

The parade will go on rain or shine. In fact, said Ms. Abitabile, the parade was only canceled once in the last 20 years and that was for a tornado watch.

This year’s forecast calls for a chance of showers and a temperature of 80 degrees.

To contact Diane Valden email

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