METUCHEN – No one could have foreseen what was to come when the Metuchen Parade Commission was formed, through ordinance, in October 2019.
The novel coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 threw a curveball into century-long traditions of the annual Memorial Day Parade and Winter Festival Parade. However, that did not deter the five-member commission – Patricia Lucas-Schnarre, who served as chair in 2020, Jamie Schleck, Lynne Mueller, Brendan Flynn and Ellen Regan – from organizing fun, safe, socially distanced events for the community during the year of uncertainties.
Mayor Jonathan Busch serves as liaison to the commission, which took over putting together the parades from the Metuchen Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Parades have been such a part of the Metuchen fiber for a long time,” Lucas-Schnarre said at a Borough Council meeting on Feb. 22. “Our Memorial Day Parade is over 90 years old, it’s definitely part of our culture in Metuchen. In 2020, our parades were quite different than we had envisioned when the ordinance was created. The real spirit of the Metuchen community really shined through. Both the Memorial Day Parade and Winter Festival parade activities were truly collaborative events. It’s what makes Metuchen really special.”
In May 2020, early on in the COVID-19 lockdown, the parade commission, with many volunteers, acted as an organizer for the Memorial Day events, which included an art contest, a rolling parade with key borough departments of fire, police, emergency medical services and public works (DPW) and a Memorial Park ceremony organized by American Legion Post 65.
“[The events] were all done on a bare bones budget because we really had no idea what was happening day to day,” Lucas-Schnarre said, adding they were “rolling with the punches.”
Residents watched the parade in person or on social media, which received 6,000 views on Facebook.
Some 134 children submitted posters for the art contest. Finalist posters were printed and hung along business windows on Main Street.
For the Winter Festival Parade, the commission formed Metuchen Lights and a Winterfest weekend, which included a tree and menorah lighting and a surprise visit from Santa Claus.
“Our focus was to maintain a safe weekend of involvement,” Lucas-Schnarre said.
Metuchen Lights, which was funded by private donations and a portion of the parade commission’s budget, was a collaboration also including the Metuchen Area Chamber of Commerce and the Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA).
Lucas-Schnarre said the DPW and MDA decorated lamp posts in the downtown. The Rise Up Chorus participated with videos.
For 2021, Regan is leading the commission. Lucas-Schnarre said they will move forward into the new year and make some changes to what they learned from last year’s events.
“No one thought we would be in this situation we are now, but we did it last year so we’ll take what we learned and bring the same sense of fun and parade activities to Metuchen again in 2021,” she said.