Remembering Memorial Day

The author's children in front of Memorial Day commemorative in Waterloo.

Memorial Day falls on May 28 this year and many of us are starting to plan what we will do with our day off. For my family, the morning will include walking in the local parade with other members of my son’s t-ball team. I haven’t yet decided what we will do afterward. Always ready to make any circumstance a learning experience, I will probably turn the day into a history lesson since the origin of the holiday is associated with the region.

Following the Civil War, many communities across the country held annual days of remembrance for their fallen soldiers. The date and activities held on those days varied from community to community. One upstate New York village, that of Waterloo, had established its day of remembrance as a community-wide event in which businesses closed and townsfolk visited the gravesites of soldiers to place flowers and flags. Thus, in 1868, when the federal government decided to designate an official day to commemorate the lost soldiers, originally called Decoration Day, Waterloo was chosen as its birthplace. Following World War I, the holiday began to honor all fallen soldiers rather than just those of the Civil War and gradually the day became known as Memorial Day. In 1971, by law, Memorial Day became a federal holiday and it was decided it should fall on the last Monday in May so that federal employees could enjoy a three-day weekend. Today, Waterloo continues to celebrate its designation as the birthplace of Memorial Day with its Celebration Parade, Civil War reenactments, and Veterans Bike Rally. There is also food, vendors and fireworks for a full day of fun.

If you plan on spending the entire weekend in the region, many towns and cities have festivities beginning Friday, Waterloo included. Corning is offering four days of art to immerse oneself in glassmaking and urban arts. Of course, the region is best known for its wine trails, so don’t forget to include traveling the lakes to visit some of our outstanding wineries to your calendar of events as well.

I haven’t officially made the agenda for our Memorial Day yet, but with all the exciting events happening, I have no doubt we will find something fun to do.

For more information on the celebration in Waterloo, visit

For more information about activities in Corning, visit

By Gabrielle L. Wheeler

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