'Idol' Worship: Mass. Town Throws Costly Parade for Hometown Pop Singer, Then Cancels Memorial Day Parade

On May 4, the town of Beverly, Massachusetts threw a huge parade and concert for 19-year-old “American Idol” contestant Angie Miller, who made the top three in the competition.“It’s a great chance to show off our fair city,” Mayor Bill Scanlon said. The city spent $31,200 on security, cleanup and other costs associated with the events, he said.

So it must have looked like an odd contrast in American values when the town of Beverly, Massachusetts then canceled its parade for Memorial Day 23 days later, a tradition for more than 100 years. Thousands turned out for the pop star, but few turn out for the heroic fallen:     

BEVERLY, Mass. (AP) — Veterans in suburban Boston gathered in a park to mark Memorial Day this year rather than hold a parade because of failing health and dwindling numbers.

The city of Beverly called off its parade this year because so few veterans would be able to march. The parade has been a fixture in the town since the Civil War.

Jerry Guilebbe is the city’s Director of Veterans’ Services. He says it can be difficult for older vets to take part.

Vietnam veteran Ron Innocenti tells WBZ-TV he hates canceling because of the message it sends to current service members. But he does understand the reason.

World War II Navy veteran Bill McPherson tells NECN he’s upset about parade cancellation but ‘‘there aren’t that many of us left.’’

Scanlon said Fox and “Idol” didn’t pay any of the costs, but the tens of thousands of dollars of city expenditures were worth it:

As for the cost to the city, Scanlon said, “It’s kind of our national advertising for the year.”

Footage of Miller’s visit shot by Fox TV will be shown on tomorrow’s “American Idol,” a show that attracts about 12 million viewers.

“It’s national publicity for the city,” Scanlon said. “When you think of what people pay to advertise on the Super Bowl, this is kind of our opportunity at that.”

Scanlon said “American Idol” did not help pay for the hometown visit.

The Boston Globe noticed the contrast on Sunday:

Robert Gilbert, commander of Beverly Vietnam Veterans, was resigned to the parade's cancellation.

"You have to be realistic about this," he said. "The past few years, there were very few people who attended."

At another Beverly parade earlier this month, for American Idol contestant Angie Miller, who had returned to her hometown, the route was packed, Gilbert said.

"I said this is the way our parade used to look," he said. "But it's not that way anymore."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis