Saturday, June 14, beginning at 7 p.m., three north Hudson County communities, namely North Bergen, West New York and Guttenberg, will join forces to honor the flag during the 63rd annual Flag Day parade and ceremonies.
The parade will begin at 85th Street and Bergenline Avenue in North Bergen and will continue down Bergenline Avenue south to 57th Street in West New York, where it will turn into Miller Stadium for the ceremonies and program that will begin around 8:30 p.m.
According to parade chairman Charlie Faistl of North Bergen, the parade will be "bigger and better than ever," with as many as 15 marching bands scheduled to appear and perform.
"I'm anticipating our best parade yet," said Faistl, who has coordinated the efforts of the parade for the last 20 years. "I'm glad that the three communities see that it is fit to have this parade. It means so much to everyone, especially now. It's an outlet for everyone to show their patriotism and support."
Rudy Klima, a member of the North Bergen American Legion Post 33 and a veteran of World War II, serving in the Marine Corps from 1942 through 1945, believes that the Flag Day parade has a major place of importance.
"This is the greatest parade there is," said Klima, who has served on both the Flag Day parade and Veterans' Alliance Committee for many years. "It's the most patriotic thing. People now have their flag flying all year round, not just on holidays. To see that, see people participating by flying their flags, is really inspirational. We have to emphasize the parade."
Marching bands from North Bergen, Memorial and Weehawken high schools will participate in the parade, as well as the famed Spirit of Liberty band, the Leatherneck Pipe and Drum band, the Palisade Park Fire Department Marching Band, the Bergen County Police Pipe Band, the Raiders Drum and Bugle Corps and the Little Ferry VFW Band.
That's enough music and horns to stir up a lot of attention and certainly a lot of patriotism.
Several other veterans' groups, like local American Legions and Veterans of Foreign War organizations, will march as well. Local youth and recreation organizations will march, as well as several civic organizations.
All three of the participating towns' leaders, namely West New York Mayor and State Assembly Speaker Albio Sires, North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco and Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna will not only march, but play a part in the closing ceremonies inside Miller Stadium.
Once inside the stadium, several hundred torn and tattered American flags will be given their proper sendoff in a flag-burning ritual.
"We retire the flags in the proper way," said Faistl, who has helped to collect the torn flags since last year's parade. "It's the only way to properly dispose of a flag and give it the honor it deserves."
Vic Conversano, a retired Guttenberg police captain, is also a parade co-chairman and will serve as a parade announcer.
"I helped to organize the parade we had to honor the 100th anniversary of Guttenberg, so Charlie [Faistl] asked me to help with the Flag Day parade," Conversano said. "I thought that no one truly understood the meaning of the parade. Especially now, after the terrorist attacks and threats, the parade has more of an importance. More people should want to get involved. It's an important event."
Faistl said that if anyone has a torn or tattered flag that needs to receive proper retirement during the ceremonies, it can be brought to the North Bergen Department of Recreation headquarters at 6301 Meadowview Ave. during business hours.
For Klima, the parade will culminate a hectic schedule of patriotic events. Of course, Klima commemorated Memorial Day, attending ceremonies in different towns, but he also helped to place flags on the graves of deceased veterans throughout the area.
Last week, he received the New Jersey Distinguished Medal from the State Department of Veterans Affairs during a ceremony held in Bayonne. He was one of 175 veterans who received the prestigious honor. And now, the parade that he holds near and dear.
"It's definitely a great event," Klima said. "We always want to emphasize the importance of the parade."