Everyone loves a parade -- the beat of the drums, the flags flapping in the breeze, the marchers and floats. In the small farming town of Hatfield, Massachusetts, Memorial Day holds a special place in the history of the town. Nationally, observance of Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1868. The Memorial Day parade in Hatfield stepped off for the first time in the 1980s. Over the years, the size of the Hatfield parade has grown and waned, but the enthusiasm of the viewers who lined the parade route remains the same.
In the Beginning
The Hatfield Memorial Day parades began in the 1980s, according to, Bob Donaldson, who organized the parade for 15 years. In the beginning, the parade was a small affair. The members of the American Legion Post in the town gathered the veterans, police and firefighters along with a few scout troops. They marched the length of tree-lined Main Street to the cheers of local residents. Who knew this humble effort would be the beginning of a long-standing tradition?
Heyday of the Parade
As the years passed, local interest in the parade grew. Pasadena, California, has the Rose Parade, but Hatfield has the Memorial Day Parade, which had the distinction at one time of being the longest small-town parade traversing the shortest distance in the country. In 1995 during the 325th anniversary of the town, 200 units marched down Main Street to the beat of the drum and the cheers of residents and friends. At this time, the parade hosted marching bands from the surrounding communities, floats, antique cars and even stagecoaches. Veterans groups and the American Legion members proceeded to the graveyard to honor the veterans and to decorate the graves. Rounding out the observance was a townwide picnic following the parade.
Can't Keep Them Away
Parade-goers are a plucky lot, withstanding all forms of hardship to view their favorite parade. Loyal to the nth degree, the folks in Hatfield always appeared to cheer on the marchers and honor the veterans. This includes the year when a spring rain turned to blustery winds with hail showers. The bands kept marching and the viewers stood their ground in good, old-fashioned Yankee tenacity. Nothing would stop them from honoring the memory of their veterans on Memorial Day.
The local access TV station assisted in reproducing the sights and sounds of the Memorial Day parade by filming the event. For several years, the television station broadcasted the entire parade on the town channel with several subsequent viewings available for the locals. The great benefit of this was residents who were housebound were able to see the parade, while giving family and friends of the marchers the ability to share the event with those who were not there during the parade.
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