By Katherine Liverman
If you have lived in the City of Falls Church through at least one May over the past 39 years, you know that the largest celebration in the City is its Memorial Day parade. Unfortunately, the 39th celebration will have to wait until next year as this year’s parade has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Each year, around 75 different groups participate in the parade. The application process begins in January; involving an array of collaboration between residents, police, public works and participants.
Behind the scenes of the Little City’s big event are the Parks and Recreation staff — reserving stages, sending hundreds of information packets and letters, marking streets for participants and observers, and more.
At the helm of this ship is Scarlett Williams, special events program supervisor of Falls Church Parks and Recreation.
Williams has attended the parade her entire life.
Her deepest grievance with the cancellation of this year’s parade is with the loss of a chance to engage with the community in such a joyful celebration of our veterans.
“This event brings out every City of Falls Church resident, old and new. Adults that grew up here and have moved away bring their children back just for the day,” Williams said. “When you’re sitting by the stage at Park Avenue and Little Falls Street waiting and all of a sudden hear the first siren from the Falls Church Police and Volunteer Fire Department, you know it’s on its way!”
Fortunately, all participants were very understanding of the cancellation, and Williams received only positive feedback. Ironically, she sent out the information that the parade was being called off on April 1, and Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly responded “If it was any other year, I’d know right away that this was an April Fools Day prank!”
One special individual who was on the receiving end of William’s memo was Lindy Hockenberry —this year’s elected Grand Marshal. The parade’s grand marshal is usually announced in late March, about two weeks after the country began gradually shutting down due to the pandemic, so the votes for the position had mostly been tallied.
Hockenberry is a fixture in the City. She arrived in 1969 to teach in the Falls Church City Schools. She retired in 2000, and then went on to be elected to City Council and also served as a member on the planning commission from 2008 – 2019.
A self-identified “people-person,” Hockenberry’s love for the City and its residents shines through when you speak to her.
She was honored to be chosen as grand marshal, but has faith that the cancellation was the right decision.
“I think we’re doing a fantastic job within our City, our school board, and our City Council — they are just on top of things, and are working cooperatively together.” A regular attendee of all the council’s virtual meetings, Hockenberry said “Our council has been making such good decisions.”
A highly extroverted person, the pains of not being able to be out in the City for the parade are heartbreaking for her.
“I love to laugh, and I just love people, all I want in my life are wonderful hugs,” but she feels her duty right now is to keep herself and others healthy.
Hockenberry is making the best of her quarantine at home; watching families out for walks, kids riding their bikes and lots — repeat — lots of dog walkers.
To support the City, she orders take out and tips much heavier than usual, and encourages people to do what they can to keep local businesses open.
“The City of Falls Church is one of the most important places in my life,” Hockenberry said. “I think Memorial Day is one of the most all-American days that we have in the City of Falls Church that includes everybody in the community and outside of our own city limits.”
Both Hockenberry and Williams are encouraging people to stay positive, and feeling deep gratitude for not only veterans but also Falls Church’s local veterans organizations such as the American Legion Post 130, the VFW Post 9274 and the Greater Falls Church Veterans Council.
Where Hockenberry, Williams and many others are moving through their own grief about the cancellation, they’re already looking forward to next year.
Those who are interested can view a pre-recording of this year’s Memorial Day Ceremony, as well as clips from past parades and ceremonies throughout the day on FCCTV on Monday starting 11 a.m. FCCTV can also be found on Cox Channel 11, RCN Channel 2, Verizon Channel 35 and YouTube.