But the annual North Hudson Flag Day Parade remains part of the Hudson County fabric - after nearly seven decades.
The 66th Annual North Hudson Flag Day Parade, which has unified North Hudson communities North Bergen, Guttenberg, and West New York through the years, will take place Wednesday night, as North Hudson pays tribute to Old Glory, the stars and stripes.
The North Bergen American Legion Post 33 and the West New York Joint Veterans Affairs Committee sponsor the parade.
Ed O'Neill, who took over as North Bergen's administrator of Veteran Affairs when Charlie Faistl retired, has been busy preparing for the parade, which will convene at 6:30 p.m. and step off at 7 p.m.
"I'm basically trying to pick up where Charlie left off," said O'Neill, who served in the United States Navy in the Vietnam War from 1971 through 1975. "I've been making the same contacts to try to keep it basically the same, but it is a lot of work. I know Charlie had a good format in place for me to follow."
O'Neill believes it's important to keep the tradition of Flag Day alive.
"Our World War II veterans are getting up in age and it's nice to be able to keep them in mind," said O'Neill, who works for the North Bergen Department of Public Works full-time. "We always have to be grateful for what those men did for our country."
Chairs from NB, Gutt and WNY
Parade Co-chairmen Andy Ventura of North Bergen, and Joe Magenheimer from Guttenberg and Aitza Cercone of West New York assisted O'Neill in the preparations.
Before Faistl stepped down, he always remembered the importance of Flag Day.
"Flag Day is making a comeback," Faistl said. "A lot of people have a new-found respect for the flag. While Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, Flag Day is a celebration. It's a day of respect for the community, for the country, for the flag. It's everyone's parade."
The parade will start at 85th Street and Bergenline Avenue in North Bergen and continue down Bergenline Avenue south to 57th Street in West New York, where it will turn into Miller Stadium for the ceremonies to begin around 8:30 p.m.
Twelve marching bands are participating in the parade, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in northern New Jersey.
Marching bands from North Bergen, Memorial, and Weehawken high schools will participate, as well as the famed Leatherneck Pipe and Drum, the Salaam Shriners String Band, the Spirit of Liberty Band, Palisade Park Fire Department Marching Band, the Bergen County Police Pipe Band, the Fairview Grammar School Band, and the Little Ferry VFW Band, and the Raiders Drum and Bugle Corps.
Several other veterans' groups, like local American Legions and Veterans of Foreign Wars will march, as well as local youth, recreation, and civic organizations.
There will be a parade of antique automobiles on display, courtesy of Joe Pantelino, who is involved in showing antique and classic cars in the area.
But the highlight of the parade will be the participation of the New Jersey National and the McGuire Air Force Base Elite Honor guards.
"The National Guard just opened an office in North Bergen [on Bergenline Avenue]," O'Neill said. "We're happy to have them with us. They're coming out with a vehicle and marching as well. It should be a good presentation."
Instead of having one grand marshal to lead the parade, the honorary grand marshals will be all active servicemen and women in the Middle East.
Retire and burn old flags
The participating towns' leaders, namely West New York Mayor and State Assemblyman Albio Sires, fresh from his two victories in the congressional race, North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco, and Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna, will march and participate in the closing ceremonies inside the stadium.
"All of the towns have been very cooperative," O'Neill said. "When it comes to this parade, they never say no to anything."
The ceremonies in the stadium will culminate in the flag-burning ritual of several hundred torn and tattered American flags that will be given their proper burial. It is not legal to simply throw away Old Glory.
"We retire the flags in the proper way," O'Neill said. "It's the only way to properly dispose of a flag and give it the honor it deserves. People have been dropping off flags to us [at the North Bergen Recreation Center]. One fellow from Kearny dropped off 22 bags of flags that he collected. We're trying to take all the old flags and replace them with new ones."
One of the flags to undergo the ritual was the one that stood over the North Bergen DPW, which O'Neill personally took down and replaced.
O'Neill said if anyone has a damaged flag that needs to receive a proper retirement during the ceremonies, it can be brought to the North Bergen Department of Recreation headquarters at 6301 Meadowview Ave. during business hours.
The parade will be held regardless of the weather.