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Nation’s largest Memorial Day parade set for 82nd year

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An estimated 45,000 city residents were expected to line up Monday for the 82nd annual Little Neck−Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, the parade’s chairman said.

The parade, which has been held in the communities since 1927, will kick off at 2 p.m. at the corner of Jason Avenue and Northern Boulevard in Great Neck, L.I., and will then proceed west on Northern Boulevard to 244th Street into the schoolyard of St. Anastasia Church in Douglaston, chairman James Rodgers said.

“We take this little hamlet in northeastern Queens and morph it into Mayberry for a day,” Rodgers said, referring to the North Carolina town in which “The Andy Griffith Show” was set. “It’s very patriotic and it brings the neighborhood together for a day. Memorial Day is supposed to be a day when we pay homage to the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we are free.”

The event is the largest annual Memorial Day parade in the nation.

This year’s grand marshal will be Master Sgt. Chester L. Marcus Jr. of the U.S. Army Reserve 99 RSC at New Jersey’s Fort Dix Army base.

“He’s a veteran and he’s made phenomenal contributions to the community,” Rodgers said of Marcus, who was previously stationed at Fort Totten in Bayside. “He’s been instrumental in helping us with the parade efforts.”

The parade committee also recently honored George Grasso, the New York Police Department’s first deputy commissioner, as its Man of the Year and Rita Cosby, a Fox TV news anchor and author, as its Woman of the Year. Both of them will ride along in the parade.

Rodgers said a variety of Girl and Boy Scout troops, northeast Queens schools, marching bands, military groups, civic organizations, homeowners groups, Lions Club and Knights of Columbus organizations, American Legions, Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters, motorcycle and antique auto clubs and equestrian groups will march in the parade.

Elected officials expected to attend the ceremony include Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Borough President Helen Marshall; City Comptroller Bill Thompson; U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D−Bayside); City Council members John Liu (D−Flushing), Tony Avella (D−Bayside), David Weprin (D−Hollis), Melinda Katz (D−Forest Hills) and James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows); state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose); and state Assembly members Mark Weprin (D−Little Neck) and Ann Margaret Carrozza (D−Bayside).

Rodgers said Gov. David Paterson could also potentially attend as well as any candidates running for office in the district’s upcoming fall election.

The day’s events will start with an interfaith service at the Community Church of Douglaston at 39−50 Douglaston Pkwy., which will be followed by a wreath−laying ceremony at the corner of Northern Boulevard and Alameda Avenue in Douglaston.

The parade’s committee is currently attempting to organize a brunch in the Community Church’s cafeteria as well as a concert in the school yard of St. Anastasia.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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