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Red Hook students march in Memorial Day Parade

Red Hook Central School District
Red Hook students march in the 2024 town Memorial Day parade

The Red Hook Central School District doesn’t have a formal marching band program.

But, once a year, the bands from Red Hook High School and Linden Avenue Middle School combine to show their reverence for those who defended our country.

Roughly 60 Red Hook band students took part in Red Hook’s annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday morning. The group marched along the parade route from the high school to VFW Post 7765 playing Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

“We wanted to lean into the celebratory side of the parade and make the audience smile,” said Andy Van Ness, instrumental music teacher at Linden Avenue Middle School, who teamed up with his high school counterpart Ben Bardenett to coordinate the combined band.

Once at the VFW, one member of the band took the spotlight. Eighth-grade student Axel Fenn played “Taps” for the assembled crowd, a ritual he’s repeated at the parade each year since learning the somber trumpet tune four years ago.

“It really makes (the veterans) happy. I like to see that,” Fenn said. “They sacrificed. I feel that they should have some joy, too.”

Fenn’s grandfather, who first asked him to perform the song, served two tours in Vietnam. His great-grandfather was shot down by German soldiers in World War II and was a prisoner of war for two years in a German prison.

Before the parade each year, the Linden Avenue student also travels with his grandfather to various cemeteries beginning at 5 a.m. each Memorial Day.

Fenn’s aunt, Stacie Fenn Smith, is principal at LAMS.

“For me, Memorial Day is a time for us to honor and remember those who have served our nation,” Fenn Smith said. “It is a day to reflect on courage, dedication and selflessness and express our gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice.”

The parade route normally ends at Memorial Park, but the route was altered this year due to the threat of rain.

The Red Hook band learned to play together in a pair of hour-long rehearsals “using their concert band skills as a foundation,” Van Ness said. “They put the same hard work into this event that they put into the band curriculum, and I think it showed in their playing. I’m also proud that so many of them care enough about our community to volunteer their time on a holiday to participate in something like this.”

Fenn said it is “pretty difficult” to get used to playing with new people as a marching band in a short amount of time, but said it was fun and “another way to give back to the community.”

Fenn Smith said she was proud of the student participants. She said LAMS has prioritized connecting with the VFW in recent years, noting the post has helped sponsor the annual eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C. and members volunteered to help build the school’s playground.

Van Ness said the parade was an “excellent experience … to see how music is so often a part of community events. I know it meant a lot to them to realize what an impact their participation had, and hopefully it showed them that there are many ways to get involved, even outside of school.”

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