Woodland Park Marks Memorial Day with Traditional Celebration

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

It’s an event going back generations in Woodland Park, where longtime residents cherish traditions like the Memorial Day parade.

“It’s very nice. I think this is one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen down here for Memorial Day, but then the town has grown quite a bit,” said Woodland Park resident Barbara Tomkins. “I’ve been to at least 52.”

“The town celebrates these things and it’s great,” said Sherry Van Dyke.

This year’s celebration drew a patriotic crowd that cheered on a host of hometown heroes from little sluggers to first responders.

For some, the best treat were the treats being thrown into the crowd.

The fun didn’t stop there. Shortly after the parade, a street fair kicked off featuring vendors, carnival style games and plenty of food. Resident Donna Ratta says this hometown celebration is just what everyone needs after going through some trying times.

“People are still trying to recover from the storms. So this is definitely a breath of fresh air, definitely a great way to start the summer,” Ratta said.

This is a quintessential Memorial Day celebration. The food, the parade, the music. But throughout this day of fun and festivities people here still took the time to remember what this holiday is really about — our veterans.

In a solemn and moving ceremony, town officials, first responders and residents saluted the men and women who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice, men like Harold Bender.

“The hat I wear is a memorial not only for the men that died. I’m the only one who survived in my company when it was blown up by friendly fire,” he said.

“These men … fought so gallantly and gave so much and their families sacrificed so much. Thank a vet today,” said Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark.

Remembering veterans like Bender is what this day was all about.