JOHNSTOWN - The annual Memorial Day parade that marched through downtown Friday night may have been the city's last, because its chief organizer is stepping down and the parade committee has voted to discontinue the event.
Ruth B. White said Sunday she has enjoyed her time as parade's top organizer. But she said the heightened anxiety this time around was a hint it was time to let someone else take the reins.
"I'm going to be 85 in December, and the parade really got to me [this year]," said White. "I'm not quitting the committee, just the parade. Let someone else form it."
Ruth B. White, pictured in Friday's Memorial Day parade in Johnstown, has stepped down from her role as organizer.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
White said she will remain as a member of the small core committee, which is chaired by John Morris. She said the committee already has accepted her decision. She said she will also stay active in helping to organize the city Veteran's Day service, which is held in November in the downtown Sir William Johnson Park.
"Ruth has really been the workhorse of the parade," Morris said Sunday.
Morris said his committee of volunteers, which includes White, is "burned out." He said the group voted to discontinue the parade, although he would like to see an annual Memorial Day service.
White said the event lost two school bands from previous years - Mayfield and Oppenheim-Ephratah - and it's also getting more difficult to get the military to participate.
Morris said it was even difficult to get clergy to participate in the parade this year.
Taking the lead from former parade organizer Sam Alpert 16 years ago, White has been the chief organizer for every parade since.
Alpert, who resides in Gloversville, said Sunday he organized the Johnstown parade for 15 years before White.
"Trying to get the people together - that's the hardest part," Alpert said. "If you don't watch them, they start running around like chickens with their heads cut off."
Many in the community will notice White is still visible as an important volunteer in the city. She helps out with planting and maintaining flowers on city property. She also is a member of the city Planning Board, a volunteer with the Johnstown Historical Society and Johnson Hall State Historic Site and a member of the Fulton County Office for the Aging advisory board
"I think it was just a culmination of everything," White said of her decision to step down as Memorial Day Parade organizer.
She said she likes everything to be "copacetic" with the parade, but her stomach was churning the last few weeks as she worried about the 2011 parade.
White said the parade has gotten smaller, with four divisions this year. She said she also worried about how the weather would turn out and the stress left her with a "tired," nervous feeling.
"It just got to me," White said.
During her 16 years as parade organizer, she said she often worked out of her Hall Avenue home. She said she was in charge of getting out the more than 150 invitations in February, and she would notify all those involved, coordinating divisions, as well as notifications to the media about the parade.
"The whole problem is getting people to participate," White said.
She said the Johnstown Memorial Day parade was never rained out during her 16 years of being the organizer.
"I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong," White said. "I took pride in it. I liked to have a theme every year."
Ironically, she said she had less stress when she and her son organized the large parade in September 2008 downtown that celebrated the Colonial City's 250th anniversary.
"I don't know how I did it, but I did it," she said.
Editor's note: This story has been revised from the original to correct a misspelled name.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.