However, one local parade that remains a part of the fabric of Hudson County after nearly seven decades: the annual North Hudson Flag Day Parade.
The 67th Annual North Hudson Flag Day Parade will run through North Bergen, Guttenberg, and West New York Thursday, June 14.
The parade is sponsored by the North Bergen American Legion Post 33 and the West New York Joint Veterans Affairs Committee.
Ed O'Neill, who took over as North Bergen's administrator of veteran affairs upon the retirement in 2005 of long-time veterans chief Charlie Faistl, has been putting all the preparations together for the parade, which will convene at 6:30 p.m. and step off at 7 p.m.
"I'm just trying to keep up with the tradition," said O'Neill, who served in the United States Navy in the Vietnam War from 1971 through 1975. "It is a tough task, but I feel confident that we can keep it going, keep the parade as strong as it ever was. We can also improve on it to make sure that no one forgets Flag Day. I think a lot of people look forward to this parade."
O'Neill said that he 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."
O'Neill has been assisted by parade co-chairmen John "Digger" O'Dell of North Bergen Recreation, Lt. Joel Magenheimer from the Guttenberg Police Department, and West New York Recreation Director Dennis DeSocio.
The parade will begin with the starting point at 85th Street and Bergenline Avenue in North Bergen and will continue down Bergenline Avenue south to 59th Street in West New York, head west on 59th Street to Madison Street, where it will turn into Miller Stadium for the ceremonies and program that will begin around 8:30 p.m.
A total of 10 marching bands have committed to participate 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 in the parade, as well as the famed Leatherneck Pipe and Drum band, 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.
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.
There will be a parade of antique automobiles on display, courtesy of Joe Pantelino, who is involved with showing antique and classic cars in the area.
Lenny Pastore has been selected as the Grand Marshal to lead the parade, but the honorary grand marshals will be all active servicemen and women in the Middle East.
All three of the participating towns' leaders, namely West New York Mayor Silverio "Sal" Vega, 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.
"All of the towns have been very cooperative," O'Neill said. "Anytime we need anything, they're all there for us. When it comes to this parade, they never say no to anything. It's really a cooperative effort of pride and patriotism. The flag is our sign of freedom."
Once the parade reaches Miller Stadium, there will be ceremonies, culminating in several hundred torn and tattered American flags that will be given their proper burial in a flag-burning ritual. 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] and we're going to give them the proper sendoff. We're trying to take all the old flags and replace them with new ones."
O'Neill said that they have collected nearly 1,000 old flags to be used in the flag-burning ceremony.
"We collect them during the course of the year for this one cause," O'Neill said.
One of the flags that will get a proper sendoff was the one that flew over the North Bergen DPW that O'Neill personally took down and replaced.
The parade will be held regardless of the weather.
This one's for America
"Flag Day is a day that we all should remember and honor," O'Neill said. "It's for all of us, not just veterans. Everyone should pay attention to it. It should be as honored as Christmas. We are looking to get more and more people to attend the ceremonies in the stadium."
If there are two concerns, it would be people coming to the parade and waving flags of other countries, and the violence that broke out a year ago at the parade's closing, leading to the shooting of a North Bergen teenager.
"We sent a letter to the schools to inform people that the Flag Day Parade is to honor the American flag, not other countries," O'Neill said. "Last year, we were flooded with complaints from residents who didn't like the fact that people were waving flags of other countries."
O'Dell added, "It has to be limited to the American flag. No disrespect to others, but this is America's flag day. It takes a lot of work to keep this parade going. If we don't keep it going, it would be the end and there would be no Flag Day celebrations around here. It's a labor of love, but you have to love what you're doing."
As for the shooting incident, O'Dell said, "It was an isolated incident. It's the first time I remember anything like that. We'll have the police on the lookout for other possible altercations."
O'Neill said if anyone has a torn or tattered flag that needs to receive proper retirement during the Flag Day ceremonies, it can be brought to the North Bergen Department of Recreation headquarters at 6301 Meadowview Ave. during business hours. Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org