Kennett Square to celebrate veterans with 'patriotic hometown parade'
By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square's Memorial Day Parade is always a wonderful celebration of veterans, but Bill Taylor, the chairperson of the parade committee, promises that this year's event on Memorial Day, May 28, could be the best one yet.
“It’s going to be a big parade,” Taylor said. “We have more than 100 units signed up already. A unit could be 150 scouts, it could be 25 military vehicles, or it could be one politician.”
Overall, the two-hour parade will feature approximately 1,500 participants, making it one of the largest Memorial Day showcases in the entire region.
“This parade has something for everybody,” Taylor said. “We have a tremendous variety of entries―there's something for all ages. It's a patriotic hometown parade.”
Military veterans are kept front and center throughout the parade, starting with this year’s grand marshals, Harry F. Brown, Jr. and Gerald J. Breeden.
“We will have a lot of military units in the parade,” Taylor said, outlining just some of the participants who will be representing military service members from all eras in the nation’s history.
A Marine color guard unit will be prominently featured as will the Chester County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. There will be high school Junior ROTC units, a Civil Air Squadron, the William E. Taylor U.S. Naval Cadets, Civil War and Revolutionary War re-enactor units, fife and drum corps, and more. Many local veterans will be riding in antique convertibles and antique military vehicles, or marching in color guards and other military units.
The parade is also a celebration of the community, and there will be many civilian units featured as well―the Joseph A. Ferko Mummers String Band, the Chester County Emerald Society Bagpipe Band, the Lukens Band Marching Band, fire trucks from local companies, high school marching bands, drumlines, barbershop quartets, a bluegrass band and gospel singers, among them. Spectators who line up on the streets will also see units featuring the scouts, Little League players, service clubs in the community, and more.
Taylor said that he is excited about some of the new additions to the parade this year. They include a bomb-sniffing dog who served the U.S. by protecting our troops in Afghanistan, a Leif Erikson viking ship that will be pulled on a trailer, and the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile that is coming down from Connecticut for the parade.
The eight-foot tall Uncle Sam is a familiar part of the Kennett Memorial Day Parade in recent years, and a new addition this year is the equally tall robot that will no doubt wow spectators.
The parade will kick off at 10 a.m. at Kennett High School (100 E. South St.), and then the parade route will follow South Union Street, Cypress Street, South Broad Street, State Street and North Union Street. It will conclude with a memorial service conducted by the Kennett Square American Legion and VFW Post at Union Hill Cemetery (424 N. Union St.).
Taylor said that it’s always an honor to be able to recognize the service of military veterans, including the grand marshals.
Brown enlisted in the Army in January of 1943 and completed basic training in Florida. He then received basic weapon usage and wire chief training in Missouri and went on to serve in the Signal Service Battalion 3188th in New Jersey. Brown was promoted to staff sergeant in communications and was shipped to the English Channel. He ship was sunk at one point, but men were rescued by another ship. Brown was then shipped to France where he took over the French telephone system. He was honorably discharged in April 1946 and settled in Kennett Square.
Breeden served as a Tech Sergeant in the Air Force. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in October of 1947 and completed boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois, and completed instruction on Aviation Metalsmith in Tennessee before being assigned to VF-61 Aircraft Fighter Squadron flying F8F Grumman “Bear Cats” at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, VA. He Served on various aircraft carriers. After being discharged in May of 1950, Breeden joined the Naval Reserves. He was called to active duty in June 1950 and sent to Pearl Harbor and then to Korea for nine months. In his last six months in the Navy, he was assigned to Alameda and served as a master of arms in the Chief Petty Officers quarters. Breeden next enlisted in U.S. Air Force in August 1953. He completed basic training in Illinois and was assigned to Keesler AFB in Missouri for electronics fundamentals school. Next, he was assigned to Chanute Air Force Base as an instrument trainer repairman. He was next assigned to Yokota Air Force Base in Japan, where he completed four years plus one extension. He retired from the Air Force on Dec. 1, 1969, and his total service between the Navy and Air Force is 21 years, 11 months, and 18 days.
Taylor, who is in his 14th year serving as the chairman of the parade committee, said that Kennett Square’s event dates back to World War II when the local American Legion started it. By 2005, the parade had gotten smaller for a variety of reasons. Taylor was enlisted to help revive the parade that year, as Kennett Square marked its sesquicentennial.
“Since then, it has been continually been growing,” Taylor said, explaining that the committee spends more than six months planning for the event.
The parade attracts around 15,000 spectators.
Taylor's family business, Taylor Oil & Propane, which has been in Kennett Square for 67 years, is very involved with the planning and staging of the Memorial Day Parade. The Taylor family and company members will build six floats in the days leading up to the parade so that some of the bands can be transported along the parade route. Numerous family members and employees help out during the day of the parade, too.
Sponsors of the parade include Taylor Oil & Propane, Waters Retail Group, The Mushroom Festival, Fenstermacher & Company, CAC Scholarship/Mushroom Farms, DiMatteo Financial Group, Genesis HealthCare, Kennett Square VFW Post #5467, Burton’s Barber Shop, Grieco Family Funeral Home, Kennett Run Charities, Kennett Square KAU Little League, Inc., Longwood Rotary, Matt Fetick/Keller Williams Realty, Union Street Financial, WSFS, law offices of David B. Myers, Madison Settlement Services, American Legion Post, and Historic Kennett Square.
For more information about the parade, contact Bill Taylor at 610-444-3810 or at taylordeskbt@ aol.com. More information is also available at www. facebook. com/KennettSquare MemorialDayParade or visit historic kennettsquare.com.