Harpswell Legionnaires march in the Memorial Day parade. (Miles Bergquist photo)

On a warm and sunny Memorial Day, community members came out in droves for Harpswell’s annual parade and ceremony, flags in hand, and paid their respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.

As paradegoers waited alongside Harpswell Neck Road, the lively sounds of Mt. Ararat High School’s marching band rose on the horizon, along with the wails of firetruck sirens.

Members of American Legion Post 171 led the parade. They marched in unison, flags snapping in the breeze and rifles perched on their shoulders. Behind them, some of Harpswell’s younger residents rode down the street on bikes and were greeted with cheers.

Following the children, Mt. Ararat High School’s marching band filled the air with triumphant song. Bombastic brass and pounding drums announced the band’s arrival to sounds of praise from the crowd.

Some of Harpswell’s older residents cruised by in classic cars, each vehicle shining in the sun and adorned with patriotic decorations.

Then came the firetrucks, sirens blaring, tossing out showers of candy. The youngest in the crowd scrambled to the road and scooped up all they could.

A member of the Mt. Ararat High School marching band plays the French horn during the Memorial Day parade in Harpswell. (Miles Bergquist photo)

After the parade had passed, with flags still waving and lollipops scattered around, Michael Doyle, commander of the Legion post, took the podium next to the historic meetinghouse and opened the ceremony with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Doyle and other speakers recited Memorial Day poems and prayers. A rousing rendition of the national anthem inspired onlookers to join in. After the ceremony, Centennial Hall hosted a free luncheon.

Parade attendee and Harpswell summer resident Kevin Sleeper said the event “signifies a tremendous sacrifice that many, many people who came before us have committed to keep this nation and this world free.”

Sleeper said many of his family members have served in the armed forces.

Gale Doyle, Michael Doyle’s wife, helped set up the luncheon at Centennial Hall.

“We honor the people who have passed who helped us to become free — to stay free,” she said of the day’s significance.

Former Coast Guardsman Bill Allen said the holiday is about giving back.

“All my family served,” Allen said. “My two brothers, (and) my father was in the Navy. He said to me, ‘When you get of age, you’re all going in the service.'”

Allen feels a deep personal connection to Memorial Day, having lost his older brother in the Vietnam War. Seeing everyone gather out of reverence for the holiday evoked many memories, he said.

The parade was a spirited tribute to Americans lost in battle, and served as evidence that a love of country is very much alive in Harpswell.