Don Corris of Shelton comes to the Deby/Shelton Memorial Day parade every year. The Air Force veteran said with tragedies such as 9/11 and with wars in the Middle East, “more people are aware of the need to support those who help us in these times.”
Corris was in the military in the early 1960s, and his son Brian now serves as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines’ explosive ordnance disposal unit.
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He was watching the parade from the Derby/Shelton Bridge, joined by many other spectators. Picture perfect weather led to a large turnout, with onlookers cheering as older veterans to young Little Leaguers marched past.
Memorial service on bridge
The parade began in downtown Derby, and a brief memorial service took place when the first marchers reached the bridge, before they crossed into Shelton.
Just prior to the ceremony, a military helicopter made a fly-over. “That is so cool!” yelled a youngster in excitement.
During the ceremony, the Shelton High School band played “Anchors Aweigh” and World War II Navy veteran John Casey threw a memorial wreath into the Housatonic River to remember all those lost at sea.
This was followed by a military gun salute and the playing of Taps.
Casey, a 99-year-old Saymour resident who previously lived in Shelton, has now participated in 67 Derby/Shelton Memorial Day parades, according to his family.
“We are overwhelmed with pride,” said his grandson, Keith Casey, of Seymour.
Red, white and blue
Many spectators waved small American flags or wore clothing with red, white and blue. Children along the parade route chased after candy thrown by marchers.
“It’s a great day to celebrate an American tradition,” said Mayor Mark Lauretti, while also noting the solemn meaning of the day.
Lauretti marched near the front with Derby Mayor Tony Staffieri, state Sen. Kevin Kelly (his district includes Shelton) and Shelton state Rep. Jason Perillo.
The public officials had joined Casey and veterans officials during the memorial wreath ceremony on the bridge.
The parade featured veterans organizations, public officials, bands, schools, fire departments, scouting groups, youth sports teams, cultural organizations, businesses and other entities from Shelton, Derby and even some other Valley towns.
All four of Shelton’s volunteer fire departments — Echo Hose, Huntington, Pine Rock Park and White Hills — were represented, with members in full dress uniform. Antique fire trucks joined newer firefighting apparatus — from vehicles to boats — in the parade.
‘Why we celebrate the day’
Kelly Thompson watched the parade from White Street in Shelton with her two young children.
“It’s a great parade and a good way for kids to learn about why we celebrate the day,” Thompson said.
Marshall Sprague was at the parade with his wife Donna and their son Justin, 16. Sprague lives in upstate New York but grew up in Shelton, attending high school in the mid-1970s. He was back in town for the holiday weekend and wanted to pay his respects by attending the parade.
Rose Piccolo of Shelton observed the parade with extended family on Center Street. “It’s very good,” she said. “I like the marching bands. We come every year.”
This year, Piccolo kept an eye out for a grandson who was playing the drums in his Derby school’s marching band.
The parade lasted about one-hour-and-45 minutes from start to finish. In Shelton, spectators lined Bridge Street, White Street, Coram Avenue, Center Street, and two sections of Howe Avenue to watch the event.