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Little Neck-Doug parade dazzles

While there was no military flyover this time, the 78th annual parade, touted as the nation's largest on Memorial Day, boasted 170-odd different participants, scores of marching bands including one from a Nebraska high school, thousands of spectators, and organizers zipping around in golf carts as the parade wound west on Northern Boulevard from Jayson Avenue to Alameda Avenue. It also moved slowly with such a full load. The day's events began in the morning with an interfaith service at the Community Church of Douglaston and a wreath-laying ceremony in the St. Anastasia's school yard at Northern Boulevard and Alameda Avenue, and the 2 p.m. parade concluded at around 4:30 p.m. Bruce Bendell, board chairman and chief executive officer of Long Island City's Major Automotive Companies, snacked on a hot dog given out at St. Anastasia's and reflected on the honor of being selected as Man of the Year by the Little Neck-Douglaston parade's organizing committee."It's been great. It was fun and a beautiful day," he said. "We're all Men of the Year." As always, popular marchers included the Federation of Black Cowboys as the riders and horses strutted their stuff, the numerous Emerald Society pipe and drum bands, and the local schools, Boy and Girl Scout troops, and civic organizations. A group from the Zion Episcopal Church in Little Neck pulled in a wagon a miniature replica of their church's distinctive chapel.Two marchers in green jumpsuits wheeling trash cans also drew loud cheers, and the city's Uniformed Sanitation Men waved back at their appreciative fans. Lyda Zissimatos and her 3-year-old son Christopher sat in chairs outside the Dunkin Donuts on Northern Boulevard, gazing at the columns of soldiers marching by. "This is support for the people who stand up for us," said Zissimatos, a Little Neck resident. When asked what his favorite part of the parade was, Christopher said, "our firefighters."Elected officials and political aspirants descended on the parade as well, underscoring the upcoming election season. Mayor Michael Bloomberg came first, walking in a horde of Queens political figures including City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Borough President Helen Marshall, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and his community representative Peter Boudouvas, who has declared his campaign for Avella's Council seat.State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) marched a few paces behind with his family.City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Gifford Miller headed a contingent that included City Councilmen David Weprin (D-Hollis) and John Liu (D-Flushing), Councilwoman Melinda Katz, state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza and Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), and Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece. "It's a great day to celebrate patriotism in my hometown," Iannece said.U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), also a mayoral candidate, made a couple of loops and passed by the judges' table twice, spurring parade announcer Greg Wilder to comment "the first Anthony Weiner we saw was a clone."A new addition to this year's parade was the inclusion of an out-of state high school band. Papillion-LaVista High School, straight from Papillion, Neb., caused a sensation with its marching band members who hot-footed down Northern Boulevard shimmying and strutting.Local schools embraced the parade's theme celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Douglaston's PS 98 students hoisted a large cloth peace dove made of recycled goods over their heads. And in what has become a tradition for the school, PS 221's contingent included a red truck carrying a large wooden display listing the three Queens soldiers who died in combat in Iraq: Lance Cpl. Michael Postal of Glen Oaks, Spc. Azhar Ali of Flushing, and Douglaston's own Spc. Wai Lwin.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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