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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Berlin’s Memorial Day bash ‘homecoming’ for residents

(May 21, 2015) In a throwback to the out-in-the-street, let-your-hair-down neighborhood celebrations of decades past, Berlin is set to hold its annual Old Fashioned Memorial Day parade on Monday.
This year’s event promises scores of church groups, marching, music and dance troupes, military demonstrations, and classic cars and motorcycles, beginning at Stephen Decatur Middle School at 11 a.m. and extending down Flower Street to Bay Street.
The parade was once a staple of the town, dating back to the days before Flower Street cut the area in half.
Gregory Purnell, who will emcee this year’s event, compared the old parades to “Mardi Gras in Berlin,” drawing as many as 10,000 people in a communitywide homecoming.
“It was Baltimore, Philly, the entire lower shore,” Purnell said. “Four-to-five big stepping bands from D.C., Baltimore and Wilmington were regular attendees. We used to march all through Berlin. It was a different time.”
Eventually, safety concerns at the state level stalled the event and, “it just dropped off,” according to Jesse Turner, who helped resurrect the parade 23 years ago.
Turner, 84, served in the United States Army and owns and operates Berlin Shoe Box & Shoe Repair on Main Street.
“It came back through the church at one time and they knew I knew how to organize parades, so it just went from there,” he said. “Nobody else wanted to do it.”
Turner and a group of volunteers began planning this year’s event in January, bringing together what he expects to be more than 40 civic, church and community groups for the massive parade.
Vendor Booths will line Flower Street, with children’s activities set on the grounds of the newly renovated multipurpose building, and yard sale tables set up inside.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Turner and others involved in the Old Fashioned Memorial Day, the feeling of homecoming has returned to Berlin as an annual occurrence, recapturing some of the magic that was lost along the way when the town was divided.
“It’s almost like a family reunion. We’ve got people scattered all over – Pennsylvania, New York – and they all come home,” Turner said. “We hope they all enjoy it and hope they come back again next year.”