CASSADAGA - The village of Cassadaga joined communities around the country on Monday in honoring the lives of the men and women who served in the United States armed forces with its annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony.
The parade began at 11:15 a.m., making its way from Ames Common to the Veterans Circle at Cassadaga Cemetery as members of the community lined Maple Avenue to watch the procession.
Groups represented in the parade included Meals on Wheels; this year's Kiwanis scholarship recipients; Cub Scout Pack 219 and Boy Scout Troop 219; the Cassadaga Valley Central School band; the American Legion Post 1280, along with the Women's Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion; and the fire departments of Cassadaga, Lily Dale, Sinclairville, Gerry and Stockton. The grand marshal of the parade was John Sipos, Cassadaga village historian.
Following the parade, a memorial ceremony was held in the cemetery, led by the American Legion Post 1280 and post commander Karl Lawson.
This ceremony served as the last stop for the Post 1280 Honor Guard on their tour of a number of the area's local cemeteries, where they performed a special service at each in the honor of fallen service members.
The Cassadaga Memorial Day ceremony began with a performance of the national anthem by the Cassadaga Valley Central School band under the leadership of John Cross. Following this, Lawson reflected on the history of Memorial Day and its continuing importance, a point underscored by readings given by young members of the community, including a recitation of the Gettysburg Address by Jeremy Warsitz.
Chaplain John Bellardo Jr., delivering the Benediction, urged the crowd to remember all those who died serving their country as well as those who are still living with the scars of war, praying to "let us never forget."
In his keynote speech, local veteran and National Guard Capt. Jeff Kelly, commander of B. Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry in Jamestown, made a case for the important connection between small town ceremonies and the appreciation felt by U.S. service members around the world, reflecting on his own childhood memories of Memorial Day in Cassadaga.
The ceremony concluded with a wreath dedication by American Legion Auxiliary unit president Gayle Cieplinski and Sons of the American Legion representative Kirk Tyler, followed by a 21-gun salute led by Legion Adjutant James Hayward.
Other speakers at the ceremony included: Stockton town supervisor Dave Wilson; District 7 county legislator and Post 1280 member John Runkle; Cassadaga Mayor LeeAnn Lazarony; Sons of the American Legion representative Kirk Tyler; and American Legion Auxiliary unit president Gayle Cieplinski.