Southold’s Memorial Day parade canceled over fears of COVID-19

Amid the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the annual Memorial Day parade held in Southold Town has been canceled.

American Legion officials in Mattituck and Southold announced the decision earlier this week.

“It’s just too early and too dangerous right now for the community to come together in close proximity,” Charles Sanders, commander of American Legion Post 803 in Southold, said in an interview Friday.

The parade, planned for May 25, typically rotates between taking place in Greenport Village and Southold Town. This year’s event was to take place in Mattituck.

Robert DeVito, Commander of American Legion Post 861 in Mattituck, said it’s “not a good idea,” especially since social distancing measures cannot be enforced.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the cancellation comes as a result of concern for public health.

“It is unfortunate but inevitable given the efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

“We must place the safety of the residents of Southold as a top priority,” Mr. DeVito wrote in a letter to town officials Tuesday.

Greenport Village has also canceled its annual dock service due to coronavirus concerns.

“That’s unfortunate, but in light of the situation we’re all going to try to stay safe and we’ll say our own prayers on that day for everyone that’s passed away,” Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said during Thursday night’s village board meeting, held online via gotomeeting. “We’re going to miss seeing the scouts and doing our tribute on the dock. But this is what we have to do to keep everybody safe and stop the spread.”

Mr. Sanders, who, since March 17 has been serving in Manhattan as a member of the Army National Guard, said one option each American Legion group has considered is hosting a private wreath ceremony to honor the men and women who lost their lives in defense of this country.

While no decision has been made yet, Mr. Sanders and Mr. DeVito said it will depend on how different guidelines unfold at the state level. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered the public to stay at home under “NY PAUSE” until at least May 15, though it’s likely social distancing guidelines will be in place for an extended period of time.

“We don’t want to have any of our members at risk,” Mr. Sanders said. “I know our fallen brothers and sisters would rather have us remember them in a safe environment.”

In lieu of services, parades and other gatherings typically held around Memorial Day, Mr. Sanders said there are still ways to honor fallen service members by laying flowers independently at monuments or flying a flag at half staff to support the memories of veterans lost.

Perhaps an equally poignant message this year, he said, will be aimed at thanking first responders and medical personnel.

“These guys are on the front lines of coronavirus,” he said.