Memorial Day parades in Butler County: What’s planned with COVID-19 restrictions relaxed

Thousands of all ages lined the city streets of Middletown for the annual Memorial Day parade through the Butler County city Monday. The parade included military veterans, honor guards, police, firefighters, city and business officials and the Middletown High School marching band.
Thousands of all ages lined the city streets of Middletown for the annual Memorial Day parade through the Butler County city Monday. The parade included military veterans, honor guards, police, firefighters, city and business officials and the Middletown High School marching band.

Relaxed COVID-19 restrictions mean there will likely be two Memorial Day parades stepping off in Butler County this year in Middletown and West Chester Twp.

The West Chester Twp. trustees have been discussing the annual event —staged by the local VFW post — to honor the military for weeks. Now it appears the on-again-off-again parade is back on.

Butler County Vet Board President Chuck Weber, who is a township resident and VFW member, told the trustees last week the parade will proceed.

“Th VFW is raring to go and we’re ready and willing to run this parade,” Weber said adding Post Commander Jim Ericksen wanted him to convey that “nobody is cranking you around here.”

Weber was referring to the fact the post cancelled the parade when it appeared they could not conform to state COVID guidelines, then said it might be back on, then it was off and now it is officially on.

“Damn those torpedoes full speed ahead,” Trustee Mark Welch told Weber. “I’m with you on this Memorial Day thing, let’s get this thing going. We’ll stand behind you, we’ll get this going and we’ll have the parade.”

Butler County General Health District Commissioner Jennifer Bailer explained the prior confusion.

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“A parade would have been larger than 10 persons so was therefore not in compliance with that order. We let the township know that orders might be changing soon, and to stay tuned,” Bailer told the Journal-News. “Indeed, a few days later the state rescinded the old order and a new order was put in place allowing gatherings of 10 or more, 6 feet apart, with masks on — thus parades could proceed.”

Ericksen said with only a month to go before the holiday it will be a challenge to pull the COVID-correct event off, but they will be putting up plenty of signs so people know to spread out, stay in family groupings and wear masks.

“Will it be the same size and complexity as previous parades probably not, but we’re going to do our best,” Eriksen said. “A month-and-a-half ago we reached out to some of the organizations that normally participate and kind of let them know we’re trying to put this thing together, so it shouldn’t be a complete shock when we call and say it’s definitely on.”

Middletown parade organizer Jeri Lewis said they have one detail to finalize and then will apply for a special event permit from the city, but the event is definitely a go. She said since the parade is staged at Smith Park there is plenty of room to social distance.

In past years they have had about 500 parade participants, she is expecting about half that number but people are still signing up. The Middletown High School band is definitely marching and she is waiting to hear from the Madison schools and Fenwick High School.

She said they can’t force people to comply with rules but they will make sure they are known.

“We can only do what we can do, social media communication, over communicating that way, we are going to try and mark it along the parade route, congested areas to sit and stay out of, that’s all we really can do,” Lewis said. “These guidelines are suggested guidelines, I will suggest ‘til I’m blue in the face, but at the end of the day people have to make grown-up decisions.”