End of an era

Though the Port Rich­mond an­nu­al Me­mori­al Day parade won’t take place this year, loc­als are work­ing to make sure vet­er­ans are honored in some way.

Sad news has re­cently gone around Port Rich­mond: for the first time in what is be­lieved to be 50 years, the an­nu­al Me­mori­al Day parade has been can­celed, due to rising costs and low dona­tions.

“I’m dis­ap­poin­ted,” said Ken Paul, pres­id­ent of Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic (PRO­PAC). “The cost of the parade in­creased, and the dona­tions were less.”

After months of fund-rais­ing, PRO­PAC was only able to raise $2,000 for this year’s parade. The pro­jec­ted costs for the parade were $12,000.

“Even if someone gave me $10,000 right now, it would still be too late. I need to ap­ply to the city per­mits two months ahead of time,” Paul said.

However, that doesn’t mean that Me­mori­al Day will not be ob­served.

In re­sponse to the parade’s can­cel­la­tion, the Friends of Camp­bell Square will be host­ing the en­tire Me­mori­al Day cel­eb­ra­tion this year.

“The parade usu­ally ends at Camp­bell Square, but we are amp­ing it up a bit this year be­cause of the lack of parade,” ex­plained Jen Bytof, events co­ordin­at­or for Friends of Camp­bell Square. “So many res­id­ents were dis­ap­poin­ted.”

A flag-rais­ing ce­re­mony will be held at Camp­bell Square. The Phil­adelphia Free­dom band and the Pol­ish Amer­ic­an String Band will both be per­form­ing for a half hour. The cel­eb­ra­tion will be­gin around 11 a.m. on Monday, May 27.

“We just thought it would be a real waste to not have any­thing for vet­er­ans on Me­mori­al Day,” said John Ra­jca, a Friends of Camp­bell Square mem­ber and former sol­dier in the U.S. Army.

Ra­jca is also reach­ing out to John J. Plenskof­ski, a Korean War vet­er­an who was in­ter­viewed for a piece in last week’s Star (“A me­mori­al’s miss­ing name,” 5/8/13) about an un­used plaque hon­or­ing Pfc. Stan­ley A. Go­goj, a Port Rich­mond man who was the first sol­dier from the Phil­adelphia area to die in Korea. Ra­jca hopes that the plaque can be placed in Camp­bell Square as part of the Me­mori­al Day cel­eb­ra­tion.

“They’re do­ing the right thing,” Paul said of the new plan by the Friends of Camp­bell Square. “We’re still do­ing the thing that is im­port­ant, which is hon­or­ing the vet­er­ans.”

Patty-Pat Kozlowski, the former PRO­PAC pres­id­ent, said fund-rais­ing for the Me­mori­al Day parade is al­ways tough.

“You have a hand­ful of people who donate. You can’t hit your mom-and-pop busi­nesses for everything,” she said. “With $2,000, we wouldn’t even be able to cov­er our in­sur­ance and our per­mit fees.”

Paul said that the three string bands which usu­ally march and per­form in the parade all in­creased their fees from last year.

Ad­di­tion­ally, PRO­PAC pays for po­lice of­ficers to watch over the parade. They also would have to pay for a $1.5 mil­lion in­sur­ance plan, in case any­one was hurt dur­ing the parade, as PRO­PAC would tech­nic­ally be li­able if any in­jur­ies to ped­es­tri­ans or par­ti­cipants oc­curred at the parade.

State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1st dist.) se­cured a $5,000 grant last year for the parade, ac­cord­ing to Kozlowski, but that grant is not avail­able every year.

“That was clutch for us,” Kozlowski said.

The com­munity’s re­ac­tions have ranged to sug­gest­ing go­ing door-to-door to ask­ing Sug­ar­House Casino, Paul said, neither of which is real­ist­ic.

Sug­ar­House Casino has a com­munity be­ne­fits agree­ment and dis­trib­utes grants through the Penn Treaty Spe­cial Ser­vices Dis­trict, but only ap­plic­ants with­in the 19125 ZIP code are eli­gible.

The Port Rich­mond Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation used to handle all the fund-rais­ing for this parade, be­fore PRO­PAC took it over.

Paul pledged that this ex­per­i­ence will make him work all the harder on fund-rais­ing for next year’s parade.

“We’re gonna have one next year,” he said. “The way things work, maybe it’s a good thing we’re not hav­ing it.

Maybe people are gonna be more aware, yeah, we do need help, you need to be in­volved in this. It can’t just be three people, it needs to be an en­tire group people.”

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at sne­w­house@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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