A local U.S. military veteran is not letting the coronavirus pandemic stop him from giving the community a semblance of an honored tradition.
Essex resident, business owner, and former member of various branches of the armed forces Darrell Langworthy has organized a Memorial Day parade this coming Sunday--consisting of fellow members of the public in lieu of the town’s annual parade which was “indefinitely postponed” back in mid-April.
“The biggest thing about this… is that: we’re American,” said Langworthy. “We have these amazing freedoms because of those men and women who gave their lives all throughout our history. To act like there’s not an alternative is not the American way to handle something. I can’t look at my kids and say, ‘We have to cancel everything because of what’s going on.’ And I think of all these kids that look forward to that parade every year and that they weren’t going to get it this year.”
Langworthy, who owns the MARK BBQ and Heart n Soul by MARK BBQ restaurants on Park Street, says he started wondering about an alternative to the town’s annual event when the announcement came a month ago.
“I was thinking about it back then and thinking, ‘There’s not some other way we can do this without bringing groups of people together?’ And it just dawned on me a week-or-so ago that we could do a parade down some of the streets and encourage [people] to be on their porch or at the end of the driveway and not in large groups at any time,” said Langworthy. “We could still do something of a patriotic display for what Memorial Day is supposed to represent--which is honoring those who gave their lives for this country and all the freedoms that we get to enjoy today.”
Langworthy, who spent time with the Army, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and served his last tour of duty as security forces for the Air Force in Saudi Arabia, then reached out to friends and social media to gauge the interest of a publicly-driven parade.
“I got a few people I know together, and we started talking about logistics of it and what we would need to do,” he said. “I put it all out on Facebook for people that would want to be a part of this and decorate their vehicles with some patriotic flags, colors, and all that. I made it very clear that it's not a protest, it's not a demonstration or any of those things; it's literally just a display of patriotism to celebrate the holiday and to remember those that we've lost along the way here--that gave it all and sacrificed in the military.”
As of Tuesday, Langworthy had about 30 vehicles set to participate in Sunday’s event--rain or shine. Among those are specialized Jeeps and trucks -- donning red, white, and blue -- from Goss Dodge and his MARK BBQ trucks which will help lead the way. The procession will also feature one of his restaurant staff members dressed up in an inflatable pig costume and a DJ providing patriotic music out of a truck.
A van will also be seen--being facilitated by Matt Lumsden Real Estate and functioning as a pickup utility for anyone who wants to donate items to the Aunt Dot’s Place food pantry. People are asked to leave the items (list of current needs below) out by the street for quick pickup and to avoid close contact.
Langworthy says he did contact officials from the town to give them notice of his plan--not so much to ask for permission to do it.
“There's no law saying we can’t drive up and down the street,” he said. “I mean, they're doing these parades for nurses and teachers all over the state. We're not encouraging people to group together; in fact we’re putting out everything to the complete opposite--to try and stay in line with the guidelines by the governor.”
“We appreciate his intentions and hope his event goes off without a hitch,” said Evan Teich, Essex unified manager, “but we are unable to provide any resources or be a part of this event.”
The parade, set to take off from MARK BBQ at 10 a.m. on Sunday, will drive about 8.5 miles through the town. It was specifically structured to allow for people to observe it--even if the vehicles aren’t driving directly by their home.
“We intentionally chose a route that would bring us down Pearl Street; so if we weren’t going through someone’s neighborhood, they can maybe park their car in one of those parking lots and still be able to see the parade and keep a safe distance from other folks.”
Langworthy noted that he plans on trying to avoid causing any traffic disturbances and travel around the speed limit on the busier roads--but he will likely slow things down through the lower-trafficked neighborhoods.
“It is a parade; it’s meant for people to stand out, wave, and have a moment of normalcy through all this,” he said.
“This is a display of America at its best--people coming together for their community,” the veteran added.
Anyone interested in being a driving participant in the parade is asked to contact Langworthy with a direct message to the MARK BBQ Facebook page.
Aunt Dot’s Place Needs:
- Crackers (Saltin, Ritz)
- Snack Fruit Cups
- Canned Pastas
- Peanut Butter
- Tuna / Hamburger Helper
- Snacks (Granola Bars, etc.)
- Sugar & Flour
- Paper Towels & Toilet Paper
- Laundry Detergent
- Personal Hygiene Products (deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, feminine hygiene products)
- Toothbrushes & Toothpaste
- Starting at MARK BBQ (34 Park St.) and heading southwest on Park St./VT Route 2A
- Right onto South St.
- Bear right onto West St.
- Right onto West St. Extension
- Right onto Pearl St./VT Route 15
- Left onto Warner Ave., continue (right) onto Edgewood Dr.
- Right onto Grandview Ave., continue onto Willeys Ct.
- Left onto Pearl St./VT Route 15
- Left onto Hillcrest Rd.
- Right onto Prospect St.
- Left onto Lincoln St./VT Route 2A
- Right onto North St.
- Left onto Central St.
- Right onto Educational Dr.
- Left onto Main St./VT Route 15
- Right onto Brickyard Rd.
- Left onto Countryside Dr.
- Left onto Beech St. (wrap around neighborhood)
- Left onto Corduroy Rd.
- Left onto Briar Ln., continue onto Woods End Dr.
- Left onto Rivendell Dr.
- Right onto Maple St./VT Route 117
- Right onto Mansfield Ave.
- Left onto Pleasant St.
- Left onto Main St./VT Route 15
- Through Five Corners intersection, finish at 34 Park. St.