ROCKVILLE – For many years, Rockville’s Hometown Holidays and Memorial Day parade held in Rockville Town Center have marked the start of summer in Montgomery County. The events provide county residents with food and entertainment as well as the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of American service men and women.
This year’s event featured a variety of musical performances and interactive educational exhibits, as well as the opportunity to sample the cuisine of numerous restaurants participating in the Taste of Rockville.
“People really enjoy that we have five different stages, so they can choose what type of music they want to listen to all throughout the day,” said Colleen McQuitty, special events manager for the city of Rockville. “It’s great to see people smiling, dancing to the music, and eating good food.”
The 2014 event is McQuitty’s fifteenth year working at Hometown Holidays, and she has watched its transformation over time as Rockville Town Square has been developed.
“It used to be a big, open parking lot and now there are buildings all over the place,” McQuitty said. “We’re definitely a street festival now.”
“We like to walk around, see friends, and get food,” said Rockville resident Frank Hunleth, who has attended Hometown Holidays with his family for the past five years. Hunleth’s children especially enjoyed playing in the large sandbox in front of the Bud Light Beach Stage on East Middle Lane.
Several veterans’ advocacy groups set up outreach areas at the events.
“It gives us an opportunity to talk to veterans one-on-one that we wouldn’t ordinarily have,” said Robert Ouelette, commander of American Legion Post 295 in Gaithersburg. “In this setting, people are more apt to stop and talk to us, ask questions and learn what we have to offer.”
The 70th annual Memorial Day parade was held Monday morning following a performance by the Rockville Concert Band and Chorus and a ceremony hosted by Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council.
“We have many veterans with us today, and I would like to recognize you and the commitment you made to protect our freedom,” Newton said in her remarks.
Newton also paid tribute to the memory of William Wood, who led the first Memorial Day Parade in Rockville. Wood’s daughter, the Rev. Jane Wood and her family, participated in the wreath-laying ceremony.
Among the veterans in attendance was Vern Lemieux, a 35-year veteran of the Army who retired in 1994 as a First Sergeant.
“I thought the concert and ceremony were great. It was great to see everybody here,” Lemieux said. “Memorial Day is a time for me to reflect…I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the military. It’s sort of like a girlfriend.”
One of Lemieux’s fondest memories is stepping off a ship at noon on August 22, 1960 after returning from a year at the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, County Council President Craig Rice, Congressman Chris Van Hollen and several other elected officials attended the ceremony and parade.