Bunker Hill Parade Comm. Sets $100K Fundraising Goal

It’s been two years since there was a traditional Battle of Bunker Hill Day Parade with all of the bands, militias, military entries and children’s activities, and the big call from everyone is to make 2022 one of the best Parades in recent memory.

But that’s going to take money, and this week – though it might seem early – the Battle of Bunker Hill Day Parade Committee announced they are starting a fundraising campaign imminently to try to raise $100,000 for the Parade over the coming months.

Long-time Parade Coordinator Arthur Hurley said they have formed a Fundraising Committee led by Kathy Noonan, Sean Boyle, Mary Gillis and others to start the ball rolling – as a blockbuster Parade is going to take time to fund properly. Also, with businesses and organizations still fighting to come out of the COVID-19 shutdowns, it will take residents, former residents, government leaders and philanthropists to get the program everyone wants.

“We started fundraising in 1979 for the Parade,” said Hurley. “Before that, the City had paid for it. But then we had to start raising the money and we got the Parade back to being a great Parade. It’s a wonder what you can do with money in a Parade. Now we need to convince people to contribute. Everyone wants a big Parade next year and there’s only one way to have that – money and participation.”

The $100,000 goal will be enhanced soon with a fundraiser on Oct. 2 at the Knights of Columbus featuring dueling pianos dubbed ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll Pianos.’ The hope is that will give an early boost after initial fundraising starts now.

Hurley said the major cost for a big Parade is to get the bands and drum and bugle corps teams to come on the June date. He said many people don’t realize how expensive they are, and to have a lot of them is going to cost more than a typical year prior to COVID-19.

“Bands are expensive; that’s what drives the cost of a Parade,” said Hurley. “People talk about getting the Mummers back, and if we want the Mummers back, it will cost $8,000 to $10,000. We haven’t had them as part of the Parade activities since 2015.

He said he would like to see something that approaches the 1975 Parade when the Bicentennial unlocked a lot of extra money to sponsor things like Bunker Hill and the Parade. With two years of not having an official Parade, he said bringing it back in that kind of fashion will help keep the tradition from fading.

“We just have to convince people,” he said. “I’ve been doing this since 1979 and that’s when we started the fundraising for it. Before that, the City paid for the Parade every year. In 1975, we had a big Parade all paid for by the City and we got extra money too…The Bicentennial was all the rage. That was a fantastic Parade. I haven’t gotten over it yet. The whole experience was incredible. This is going to be a warm-up to the 250th and I hope we can have something like we did in 1975.”

The Parade in 2022 is going to be in a theme of ‘Women in the Military/Women Veterans.’ The Chief Marshal, picked two years ago, will be female veteran Margaret Klessens, now 97.

The basis of that theme came in conjunction with the American Legion anniversary two years ago – all of which was put on hold. The basis for it in Charlestown was to highlight the service and struggle of Elizabeth O’Donnell. She had incredibly served in the US Navy during World War I, one of the only female sailors to have served. She returned to Charlestown and became very active in the American Legion Post, fully accepted by the 500 men that were also members of the Charlestown Legion Post.

In 1934, when the Parade was fully paid for by the City of Boston, the full membership of the Charlestown Legion voted to make O’Donnell the Chief Marshal of the Parade – which was quite a statement for those days. That said, then-Mayor Frederick Mansfield refused to appoint her as the Chief Marshal and chose someone else.

The Legion protested and – though they were key members of the Parade – the did not participate in 1934, with headlines reading, ‘Legion Out of June 17 Parade.’ The situation caused a stir amongst the thousands and thousands of Legion members state-wide as well, Hurley said.

“Keep in mind, that was 500 men in Charlestown nominating a woman in 1934,” he said. “The American Legion never discriminated against any veteran by race, gender or whatever. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re a veteran.”

With that in mind, the Parade will be dedicated to women veterans and women in the military – with Klessens leading the charge – and Elizabeth O’Donnell beside her in spirit.

The Parade next year will be on June 12, 2022. For more information on the Oct. 2 fundraiser or other fundraising, call Kelli Forbes (Gillen) (617) 947-7651, Katie

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