ELMONT, N.Y. —  The 11th annual Belmont/Elmont Parade was the biggest one yet, kicking off Belmont Stakes Racing Festival Week under sunny skies on June 2 with more than 1,000 marchers making their way along Hempstead Turnpike and into Belmont Park.

Led by grand marshalls Chris Kay, president and CEO of the New York Racing Association; Jon Ledecky, co-owner of the New York Islanders; and  Sandra Smith, chairwoman of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development, others who took part in the parade and festivities included New York State Senator Elaine Phillips (R, 7th Senate District), Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, local officials, business owners, members of the police and fire departments, and several youth organizations, including the Elmont High School marching band.

This parade had added significance since the 2017 announcement that the Islanders will return to Long Island and build an arena at Belmont Park.

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Ledecky thanked Kay and the Elmont community for welcoming the Islanders back to Long Island.

"Thanks for the privilege of becoming part of your community. It's an honor for the New York Islanders to be coming to Elmont,'' Ledecky said.

A high note during the post-parade celebration included a rousing rendition of the national anthem by 15-year-old Adriana Sandoval, a sophomore at Sewanhaka High School in neighboring Floral Park. She had no idea she would be asked to sing, but was called upon at the last second, and sang it beautifully. She was given a standing ovation, and a few minutes later, the Islanders co-owner invited her to sing at a future Islanders game.

"I was shaking when I went up there,'' she said. "Then I just sang."

The parade began at the Elmont Public Library, and proceeded west before it entered Gate 5 at the track.

"Thank you for kicking off this week with such a special parade, over a thousand of you!" Kay said to the marchers.

Kay reminded everyone of the historic significance of the Belmont Stakes, especially when a Triple Crown is on the line as it will be next Saturday, June 9, when Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify attempts to become the 13th horse to sweep the three races.

"Next week we will run the 150th version of the Belmont Stakes,'' Kay told the crowd. "To put it in perspective, our event is older than World Series, older than the Rose Bowl, older than the Super Bowl. In 2015, when we had a Triple Crown winner with American Pharoah, we won sports event of the year, and it was the year of the 50th Super Bowl. For 150 years, we are one of the most venerable events in all America."

Other civic events taking place this week include the annual Belmont Park jockey visit to the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, and the Floral Park Street Festival and Integrated Medical Foundation's seventh annual Belmont Stakes Blue Ribbon 5K Run for Prostate Center, both on Sunday.

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