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College Point, Whitestone search for parade funding

During the past several years, the Memorial Day parades in College Point and Whitestone have grown larger and more popular. With the surge in patriotism after Sept. 11, parade organizers are hoping the parade’s popularity continues this year.

But those in charge of the parades say that current funding has not matched their larger plans.

“Our mail hasn’t been coming in,” said Fred Mazzarello, chairman of the College Point Citizens for Memorial Day for about seven years. “We’ve fallen short.”

Herman Schneider, this year’s head of the Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association, which plans the community’s parade, has also noticed a decrease in funding. “We saw a little more in the past,” he said.

Mazzarello and his group are currently working to raise additional funds for the parade, billed as one of the largest in the country.

More than 4,000 people are expected to participate in the parade, scheduled to begin on Sunday, May 26, at 2 p.m.

The parade will start on College Point Boulevard and 26th Avenue. Participants will march about one mile up College Point Boulevard to Herman A. MacNeil Park, where Memorial Day ceremonies are expected to begin at 3 p.m.

This year 16 bands are slated to participate in the parade, the largest having more than 100 members.

The parade will feature a tribute to carrier pigeons used in wartime to deliver messages. A truck carrying pigeons will be driven through the parade with signs explaining the history of pigeons in battles.

About 20 members of the Navy Construction Battalion Seabees Division are also expected to march. The division was founded in World War II to construct strategic facilities during the war.

“These guys built airports, hospitals, docks, road, you name it,” said Mazzarello. “They were famous for being able to make something out of nothing.”

State Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Fresh Meadows) will be grand marshal for the parade, and Stephanie Santiago, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 885 Ladies Auxiliary Division, will be Poppy Queen.

The parade is the largest — and most expensive — ever for College Point, said Mazzarello.

Last year about $20,000 was spent on the parade. The growth of the parade has raised costs close to the $27,000 mark, and the group is currently about $5,000 short, Mazzarello said.

The committee has also worked to install more than 30 flags on College Point Boulevard in a show of patriotism after Sept. 11. About half of those flags were stolen, and the group may have to spend more than $2,000 to replace them, Mazzarello said.

Mazzarello had hoped that renewed patriotism in Queens would lead to more donations.

“We anticipated, especially with the World Trade Center tragedy, to get a much better return from our mail campaign, and that’s why we increased the parade,” he said.

Schneider’s organization is planning a somewhat smaller parade than Mazzarello’s group, and therefore does not need to raise as much money.

Nevertheless, he noted that although the parade has grown over the past decade, the parade was better funded when he was last in charge of it in 1988.

“We could always use a little more,” he said.

Whitestone’s parade will begin on Memorial Day itself, Monday, May 27, at noon in Memorial Park at 149th Street and 15th Drive.

About 300 people will march north on 149th Street to 12th Avenue, where the crowd will head to 150th Street and then turn south to 18th Avenue. The parade will then return to 149th Street and go north, making a complete circle.

Capt. Thomas Meeks, a retired U.S. Navy pilot, will be the grand marshal of the parade.

Four bands and troops of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are among the expected participants.

The Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association comprises three organizations: American Legion Post 131, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4787 and Jewish War Veterans Post 415.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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