Memorial parade canceled, ceremony still on

A memorial ceremony to remember those veterans who gave everything will still be conducted next month at Pilgrim’s Home Cemetery. However, the Memorial Day parade that usually precedes the event has again been cancelled this year due to COVID-19.

“There’s so much work that’s put into it, it would be hard to pull the plug at the last minute,” Memorial Day Parade Committee member Craig Rich says. “It was safer for everybody to just plan not to do the parade.”

Following the lead of Tulip Time, the committee has decided “it would be unwise to promote the gathering of thousands of Holland citizens in the parade, and along the parade route,” according to a statement from the Holland Memorial Day Parade Committee.

Uncertain times

The Holland Memorial Day Parade committee will proceed with the memorial ceremony at Pilgrim Home Cemetery at 11 a.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, while exercising safe outdoor gathering standards.

“We did not make the decision to cancel the parade lightly,” committee Chairman Ren Mireles says. “But, with the uncertainty of the times, we are still not confident that it will be safe to promote a parade. The age of many of the veterans and others who participate in this annual parade puts them squarely in the higher risk category for Covid-19.”

Area veteran’s organizations, the Holland American Legion Band, and city officials will participate in the memorial service that usually takes place after the parade at Pilgrim Home Cemetery.

In a typical year — which this is anything but — a couple of hundred people show up after the parade. It makes planning difficult.

“I don’t know whether we’re going to have fewer or more people attending,” Rich says.

Social distancing

The committee is working out the logistics and details with the city parks department, Rich says. They want to be sure everyone is spaced out enough to be safe, but people will also have to do some self-policing.

This year’s speaker will be James Smither, history professor and director of the Grand Valley State University Veterans History Project. In partnership with the Library of Congress, the GVSU project records oral history interviews with veterans of and civilian witnesses to the wars and conflicts that Americans have participated in over the past century with the purpose of creating as complete a record as possible of the American experience in wartime.

Commitment to veterans

The committee donated $1,000 of the money raised for last year’s parade to the VFW and didn’t fund raise this year as expenses will be minimal.

With everything canceled in 2021, several veterans groups still had a small ceremony in the VFW parking lot.

“Holland has always been a community that comes together and honors those who have given all,” Rich says. “I think traditions are important. I’m a history buff and keeping those traditions alive — especially when we are losing so many of our veterans — we need to honor the vets while they’re still around.”

The committee plans on next having the Memorial Day parade in 2022.

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.