By Kirsten Mettler
The parking lot looked like a Jackson Pollock painting, splattered with bright yellows, blues and reds. Jeeps of every color in a rainbow were mixed with muscle cars and Hondas on this sunny May day. A global pandemic was not going to stop the birthday parade for Glen Powell, a 97-year-old World War II veteran.
More than 300 cars arrived for the event organized by John Krusinski, a Milford, Conn. resident. Krusinski could be seen leading the parade in his blue pickup truck, with a great big American flag billowing off the back. Though the parade for Powell was certainly the most well attended, Krusinski has been organizing multiple birthday parades a day since social distancing measures came to Connecticut, hoping to brighten the days of those forced to celebrate in isolation.
This all began when Krusinski started hearing about the many children in Milford who could not celebrate their birthdays at school with friends. As someone who loves birthdays, he found it easy to imagine how difficult this could be for kids. “It stunk,” he said.
So, Krusinski got to work. His first parade was for a friend, but word got out, and the operation grew more advanced. Krusinski started a Facebook page called “Milford, CT Birthday Parades,” adorned with a color-coded spreadsheet and full of peppy birthday announcements with exciting emojis. People can contact him with a loved one’s name and address, and he organizes a drive-by parade, full of honking horns and music.
Every morning Krusinski posts his elaborate map of parade routes, factoring in everything from traffic levels to tricky intersections. Krusinski even partnered with CT Jeep Cruisers, a local Jeep enthusiast group, to get more cars involved. They now run parades for people of all ages, all over Milford.
In addition to parade organizing, Krusinski is still working full time at Win Supply, a plumbing supply company. He goes to work in the morning and then heads out for birthday parades, which run from 5:30 until 7 p.m. When the events are over, he heads home, eats a quick dinner, and jumps on the computer to go through birthday requests and organize more parades. He usually finishes up sometime between 1 and 2 a.m. He wakes up the next morning to do it all over again, playfully calling the parades his second job.
Luckily, it is a fun job. He loves hearing families giggle and watching smiles eat up faces as parades roll past. He loved seeing a little girl’s face light up as big jeeps rolled by, matching the pink toy one she was sitting in. He loved seeing the veteran, Powell, stand tall in his blue cap, as all the cars honked in his honor.
Everyone involved in these parades is a volunteer. Krusinski insists that he “didn’t do anything,” even when the Facebook group says otherwise; the messages are full of sincere thank you notes and videos of jumping children, excited to watch their birthday parades.
Soon, though, the fun will end, as announced on the Facebook page on May 17. With businesses opening and streets filling up again, the parades have achieved their purpose. While Krusinski and his friends are considering ways to run graduation parades, all others will stop at the end of May, he said.
At first it may be sad to look out and not see the caravan of cars driving along the beach roads of Milford, but Krusinski has no regrets. He is just happy with all of the friends he made along the way, saying, “We have had a lot of fun.”
Watch a video of the honking cards in one of John Krusinski’s birthday parades in Milford, Conn.