The sign above the Northern State Parkway on Saturday said it all: “All Fields Full at Jones Beach.”
It was the sum of more than 200,000 people flooding the beach to watch jet planes dance in the hot air over one of Long Island’s most popular beaches.
The Bethpage Federal Credit Union Air Show at Jones Beach has long been the marquee event of the Memorial Day holiday, and 2012’s Summer-like temps and bright sunshine were the perfect backdrop for the aerial acrobatics.
The United States Navy’s Blue Angels this year were joined by squadrons from Canada, the United States Army and the New York Air National Guard, and the maneuvers they performed over the two-day show thrilled beachgoers.
Memorial Day each year sees Long Island come alive to ring in its best season. And though millions might've missed the Air Show, everybody found a way to celebrate.
More than 80 miles away from Jones Beach, Long Island’s other anchor attraction drew thousands.
Antiquity was the big lure as a half-dozen “Tall Ships,” traditional sailing vessels marked by huge wooden masts and many rigs and sails, pulled into Greenport.
For those choosing to brave the North Fork gridlock, the result was a look back in time, while Village eateries, street performances, exhibits and ship tours made the event more than memorable for the locals and troves of tourists looking to kick off the Summer with a bang.
Remembering The Fallen
While big events and backyard barbecues might get top billing, Long Islanders took time to honor the spirit of the day, honoring the servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives defending the United States, a price Fort Salonga’s Thomas DeLuca saw people pay first-hand.
"You know, once you become a soldier, you become a man. You go into the Army a boy, and come out a man," he said.
DeLuca, one of the few WWII vets still surviving, marched in the Commack Memorial Day Parade on Monday.
Northport Mayor and Grand Marshal George Doll might not have fought overseas, but the memory of lost friends who did stick with him to this day. As he led Northport’s parade on Monday, Doll donned a tie given to him by a friend who died in Vietnam.
Ceremonies across Long Island paid tribute to the fallen, including a wreath-laying in Huntington to honor servicewomen, a flag ceremony at the Village green in Montauk, speeches honoring the military at Agwam Park in Southampton, a tribute by West Hempstead marine Albert Maldonado to friends and fellow soldiers he lost on two tours in Iraq and a tribute in Hampton Bays given by VFW leader Bill Hughes to a dear friend who died on a rescue mission in Vietnam.
At Calverton National Cemetery, the nation's largest burial ground for soldiers killed in action, hundreds .
"Gently remind others that, yes, you can barbecue," said keynote speaker Sylvia Laughlin, a former servicewoman. "But take a few minutes to remember those who gave you the freedom to barbecue."
We Love a Parade
Honoring the occasion comes with a tradition communities across Long Island upheld in 2012 as the sound of marching bands, sirens and cheers could be heard from Mineola to Miller Place.
And while the faces in each community changed from town to town, the feel of each parade was consistent with the spirit of Memorial Day. Local veterans marched or rode in Army Jeeps, fire department volunteers carried flags, local Boy and Girl Scout troops waved and threw candy while the musicians in school bands played patriotic marches.
"This is one of the nicest parades you can attend, certainly a fitting tribute," said Jack Cassidy, parade chairman for the Memorial Day parade in Three Village. Though he could have spoken for them all.
Click through to each town to see our galleries from parades across Long Island.
Long Beach, Rockville Centre, Lynbrook, West Hempstead, Malverne, Mineola, Garden City, Wantagh-Seaford, East Meadow, Bellmore, Merrick, Levittown, Massapequa, Plainview, Port Washington, Glen Cove, Syosset, Farmingdale, New Hyde Park
Lindenhurst, Huntington, Northport, Kings Park, Commack, Smithtown, Three Village, Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, Montauk, Babylon Village, Deer Park, West Islip, Melville, Sayville, Patchogue, Sachem area
And if you have great photos of your own from Memorial Day, add them to our Long Island gallery.