After a bloody conflict in which 600,000 Americans of all walks of life — soldiers and civilians alike — perished and the United States embarked on the long and arduous road to reconciliation, people began observing what was then known as Decoration Day, a day of healing, remembrance, and memory. Initially enacted to honor Civil War veterans, the holiday was extended following World War I — when another 117,000 soldiers were killed — to honor the dead of all American wars.
And the day of remembrance kept getting bigger and bigger, up until the point when, in 1967, the U.S. Congress felt it appropriate to officially designate Memorial Day as a federal holiday. We know it today as a day rife with barbecues and celebrations, a day off of work — for many of us, at least — and time to spend with our families. And while some have grown accustom to using the day to memorialize any person no longer among the living, the holiday for a great many people continues to be a solemn observance of military personnel’s service and sacrifice, past and present.
As such, the following is a rundown of the formal municipal and non-profit activities, from parades to remembrances, lakes area residents can participate in to honor the memory of a fallen service member, whether they served in the American Revolution or the War on Terror, or something in between.
The Walled Lake Memorial Day parade is slated for 11 a.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, beginning at the corner of Pontiac Trail and Walled Lake Drive. It heads north on Pontiac Trail and diverts east onto Maple, ending at the Walled Lake City Hall, where a brief ceremony will be held.
According to Janell Joyce, the parade’s coordinator, several local businesses, schools, military organizations, and groups will participate in the parade, including each high school marching band from the Walled Lake Consolidated School District.
“It has a ‘wowing’ effect — that’s 400 members,” Joyce said.
About 10,000 people attended the parade last year.
“We are expecting about the same this year, but it tends to get bigger every year,” she said.
A private group will be marching in memory of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Justin Ellsworth — son of Wolverine Lake Police Captain John Ellsworth — who was just 20-years-old when he was killed by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq. He was credited with saving the lives of 11 Marines by placing himself in front of the blast, and was awarded the Bronze Star.
Military representatives from the Ladies Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4156, VFW Post 2269, and American Legion Constitution Post 224 will also be participating.
“We do the flag raising and services at the memorial site,” said Guy DuFresne, Commander of the Sons of the American Legion. “Our team, along with VFW Post 2269, go to local cemeteries before the parade and pick out a veteran at each one to honor.”
Other participants include the Walled Lake Western High School football team, Twirl-Em Batons, Walled Lake Rotary, Walled Lake Lions, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and the Dance Dynamics dancers.
Several local churches will be presenting parade floats they created specifically for the event.
In tandem with the Memorial Day Weekend, the Walled Lake Downtown Development Authority (DDA) will host its third annual Bill Compton Support Our Troops 5K Run and 1 Mile Fun Walk on Sunday, May 29, beginning at 9 a.m.
The fundraiser is named in memory of Bill Compton, a highly decorated World War II veteran and long-time resident of Walled Lake. Proceeds benefit two military charities — Operation Hug-A-Hero and the Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund.
Operation Hug-A-Hero is a non-profit organization that supports the children of America’s heroes who served in the armed forces, and law enforcement personnel who have fallen in the line of duty. Its goal is to help comfort the children of these heroes by providing them with a free Hug-A-Hero doll.
The Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund helps veterans in Michigan who return from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns and are in need of support and assistance.
Participants walk or run along the shores of Walled Lake in support of military personnel and their families. The Support Our Troops 5K Run kicks off with a grand opening celebration that includes an Honor Guard flag raising ceremony. Following the event, a brunch will be offered by Uptown Grille and Great Harvest Bread of Commerce Township.
Many local businesses and non-profit organizations pulled together resources to sponsor the event.
For more information visit DowntownWalledLake.org.
The Waterford Township Memorial Day Parade begins at 10 a.m. Monday at the intersection of Sashabaw Road and Dixie Highway, and heads north, concluding at Dixie Highway and Williams Lake Road.
This is 44th year the township has hosted the event.
“It’s one of the largest parades in Oakland County,” said Donna Kelley, who has coordinated the parade for 17 years.
“The culminating ceremony is to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice and to get the community involved,” she said.
A stream of local schools and businesses, scout troops, and military groups will march or drive in the parade. Some of the highlights include the Kettering and Mott high school bands accompanied by several middle school bands and parade entries by Kettering Youth Wrestling; Waterford Baseball Coaches Association; Waterford Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops; Waterford Eagles; the Corvette Club; Quake on the Lake; Waterford Historical Society; Waterford Rotary; and the Waterford Township Library.
Military representatives from the Pontiac Elks Club; Daughters of the American Revolution and Heart of the Lakes VFW Post 1008 will also be participating.
“The Pontiac Elks Club is our biggest contingency,” Kelley noted.
Local officials and law enforcement groups will also take part in the festivities, such as state Rep. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield); state Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford); and 51st District Court Judge Jody Debbrecht, along with the Waterford police and fire Color Guards.
Waterford Township Treasurer Margaret Birch, a regular participant since the 2007 parade, will be accompanied by her father, Wilbur Frank, a World War II veteran, and her father-in-law, Edward Birch, a former member of the Coast Guard.
“My father was in the Army for four years and served in Japan, New Guinea and the Philippines,” she said. “He met my mom in 1941 and they corresponded during the war.”
Edward Birch and Frank will ride side-by-side in a flag-covered truck, waving to the crowds lined up and down the roadway while the township treasurer and her husband walk behind tossing candy.
Waterford Trustee “Doc” Maloney, a veteran of the Vietnam War, will follow suit, dressed in full military uniform.
Representatives from various churches, along with Hess-Hathaway Park and Drayton Plains Nature Center representatives, will also participate, as will a myriad of local businesses.
A flyover made up of aircraft stationed at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base is planned for 10:45 a.m.
The parade concludes with a memorial service at the Drayton Plains Cemetery at the corner of Williams Lake Road and Dixie Highway, with the VFW presiding.
“The service will be held by the flagpole at the veteran’s grave which is decorated as we go through the rituals,” Kelley said.
The 2011 Milford Memorial Day parade will take place on Monday, May 30, beginning at 11 a.m. in downtown Milford.
The parade is being organized by its chairman, Joseph M. Salvia, former commander of American Legion Post 216 in Milford. He also serves as post commander of Huron Valley AMVETS Post 2006.
The parade route will begin at the American Legion Hall parking lot, located at 510 W. Commerce Road in Milford. The parade will head east down Commerce and then south on Main Street before halting at Central Park, where a remembrance ceremony will take place.
On display will be a variety of military aircraft flying over the parade route, including two A-10 Thunderbolt fighter jets from Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Salvia also said to expect 10 T-6 World War II aircraft along with a B-25 bomber and a C-47 aircraft.
Also marching will be bands from Huron Valley Milford and Lakeland high schools, as well as the band from White Lake Middle School.
There will also be a full bagpipe band, Cabarfeigh, marching along the parade route.
About 15,000 people are expected to attend, including American Legion and Huron Valley AMVET members, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and representatives of local church groups, including the Milford United Methodist Church, the Church of the Holy Spirit, and Oak Pointe Church.
At the ceremony in Central Park, the keynote speaker will be Lieutenant Colonel Scott Hiipakka of the Michigan National Guard, a Milford resident.
Salvia said that all veterans are welcome to attend and march in the parade, and he is hoping for 1,000 vets to participate. He said he hopes that as many people will come to salute those who have served, who are still serving and those who have paid the ultimate price.
“For one day, we should not think about self or one’s personal pleasures,” he said. “Many veterans completed their time in service hoping to be received home with some feeling that they were appreciated, but most received little or no attention at all. The words ‘Thank You Veterans,’ ‘Welcome Home’ and a handshake or hug can mean a world of difference to a veteran who has never been acknowledged in the past.”
The Memorial Day parade has been held in Milford for over 100 years.
Salvia has been in charge of the parade for 16 years. He said it has grown from a sparsely attended event to a major annual community gathering with over 15,000 in attendance.
“We all now understanding that we gather to remember ‘the shed blood of those who gave their lives in service,’” he said.
“In addition, our current veterans and those in service are a large part of the parade, and receive the recognition and welcome that they deserve from our citizens.”
GREATER WEST BLOOMFIELD
The Keego Harbor Memorial Day opening ceremonies are slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park on Cass Lake Road just south of Orchard Lake Road.
The service will honor a member of the Navy, Army, Navy Seals and Army Reserves for their contributions.
Sid Rubin, a Keego Harbor City Council member and the parade’s chairperson, also said that four children who have parents serving in the military will also be reading what Memorial Day means to them.
“I want the children to get involved. When I asked some of them what Memorial Day means to them, they had no idea,” Rubin said. “They just thought they were out of school or that the Tigers were playing a doubleheader.”
The 2011 Keego Harbor Memorial Day Parade will follow at 10:15 a.m., moving from Keego Harbor to Sylvan Lake. The parade route is eastbound on Orchard Lake Road, west on Inverness and then down to Sylvan Lake Memorial Park.
Rubin said he believes about 500 people will be marching in the parade, while approximately 5,000 people are expected to attend.
The West Bloomfield Honor Guard will be marching in the parade, and the West Bloomfield High School Band will also be performing.
Rubin added that there would also be a combination of floats, classic cars and various organizations entered in the parade.
The Sylvan Lake Memorial Service for all veterans immediately follows the parade at Memorial Park on Garland Street at about 11:30 a.m.
The service will be followed by the Fleet Flower Drop on Sylvan Lake, sponsored by the Oakland County Boat Club.
Meanwhile, the Pine Lake Cemetery Association will be sponsoring its own memorial service at 10 a.m. at the Pine Lake Cemetery at Lone Pine and Middlebelt Roads in West Bloomfield.
While Commerce Township does not have any sponsored events to acknowledge Memorial Day, it does have a tradition that’s observed every year to commemorate the holiday.
“We will continue our annual tradition of setting flags out at all the cemeteries in the township,” said township Clerk Dan Munro.
WHITE LAKE TOWNSHIP
White Lake Township likewise has no sponsored events planned within the community.
However, a White Lake Township fire truck will be a part of the parade in Milford to commemorate the holiday.
Highland Township hosted its annual Community Parade on Saturday, May 21. As such, there are no plans to host a Memorial Day parade.
While the township will not be directly involved in any community-sponsored activities, VFW Post 9914 located on Duck Lake Road in Highland will be holding ceremonies to honor veterans at several locations on Memorial Day. It will start at Highland Cemetery at 8:30 a.m., and then proceed to Veterans Park at 9 a.m. From there the post will hold another ceremony at the West Highland Cemetery before joining the Milford Parade.
An annual Michigan tradition for four decades hosted by St. Mary’s Preparatory in Orchard Lake, the St. Mary’s Polish Country Fair is the largest event of its kind in the nation.
The fun-filled weekend will be held this year from Friday, May 27 until Memorial Day, Monday, May 30 on the picturesque campus overlooking Orchard Lake.
Fair hours are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on May 27; from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29; and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 30.
The fair typically attracts 110,000 “stay-cationers” who enjoy a weekend of excitement, great food, and entertainment.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser put on entirely by parent volunteers,” said Annalisa Sokol, a St. Mary’s Moms and Dads Club member in charge of the fair’s advertising and entertainment. “It’s a great weekend for the entire family.”
Fifty carnival rides — including an 80-foot Crazy Mouse spinning roller coaster, thrill rides, and merry-go-rounds — draw kids of all ages.
But even with all that, a few new things are planned this year to make the event even better.
“Our expanded Kid Zone with crafts for youngsters is much nicer with a lot more to do,” Sokol said. “While the rides are a big draw and there’s a lot for adults and teens to do, we needed more for the younger audience.”
Adults take to the dance floor as musical acts perform every afternoon and night. This year, more bands are taking to the stage than last.
“We have 16 bands opposed to 10, which is a significant increase in entertainment,” Sokol said.
Each evening features a headliner and theme. On Friday, Boogie Dynomite takes the stage with other bands playing music from the 60s and 70s. On Saturday, Killer Flamingos and 50 Amp Fuse will be in the limelight, jamming out classic rock; and on Sunday, the Howling Diablos are the featured headliner.
Authentic Polish and American fare — such as pierogis, stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, sauerkraut, hamburgers, corn dogs, fresh baked goods, smoothies and ice-cold alcoholic drinks — will be available.
As an added bonus, a fresh, hot pancake breakfast will be served in the food tent right after Sunday mass at 9 a.m.
A Vegas tent features Black Jack, no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em, and various casino games and Bingo. Vegas tent hours are Friday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.; and Monday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Raffle tickets will be on sale for a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000.
Moreover, a sundry of boutiques and vendors will set up shop to sell items ranging from Polish pottery and T-shirts to tattoos and hand-made jewelry handbags.
General admission is free of charge. However, Ride-All-Day passes are $23 at the gate or $20 if purchased in advance at 12 participating Meijer locations from now until May 27. Parking on the grounds of St. Mary’s Prep costs $10.
Some of the event sponsors include Meijer, Hudsonville Ice Cream, Molson, Coors Light, and DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital.
For more information, visit the website at stmaryspolishcountryfair.com.