xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Dayhoff: Pop-up parade preserves tradition on otherwise virtual Memorial Day

For the sake of history, this year six folks walked the Westminster Memorial Day parade route on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, accompanied by the Reese and Westminster fire departments, along with a police escort by the Westminster Police. From left to right are Caroline Babylon, Westminster Municipal Band Director Sandy Miller – holding a wreath, and Westminster Councilwoman Ann Gilbert – holding the flag. Other folks on the walk included Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band, Vietnam Veteran Walter Pete Groomes, and Kevin Dayhoff.
For the sake of history, this year six folks walked the Westminster Memorial Day parade route on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, accompanied by the Reese and Westminster fire departments, along with a police escort by the Westminster Police. From left to right are Caroline Babylon, Westminster Municipal Band Director Sandy Miller – holding a wreath, and Westminster Councilwoman Ann Gilbert – holding the flag. Other folks on the walk included Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band, Vietnam Veteran Walter Pete Groomes, and Kevin Dayhoff. (Courtesy Dayhoff Babylon family photo)

This year’s Westminster Memorial Day ceremonies witnessed many changes, although the solemn tradition continued as it has for 153 years.

Well, not quite. When I wrote that sentence 11 years ago in May 2009, little did anyone ever suspect what a strange year 2020 would turn out to be and just how far fate would change the course of history.

Advertisement

In 2009, the next paragraph was just as poignant: “Once again this year on Memorial Day the normal hustle and bustle of downtown Westminster paused along with the nation to remember our country’s fallen veterans and specifically the many Carroll County military personnel who lost their lives in defense of our country.”

Well, Memorial Day in Carroll County was certainly on “pause” this year — as all of us have been since early in March.

Advertisement

It was on March 12 that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order that, “Effective immediately, gatherings of more than 250 people … are prohibited at all locations and venues.”

Later the governor’s executive order was changed to read that gatherings of more than 10 folks were prohibited. Kind of hard to have a parade and memorial ceremonies when no more than 10 folks are allowed to get together. Especially when one considers that the Westminster parade alone attracts thousands to downtown Westminster.

For the sake of history, this year six folks walked the Westminster Memorial Day parade route on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, accompanied by the Reese and Westminster fire departments, along with a police escort by Westminster Police Lt. Steve Launchi. Folks on the walk were Caroline Babylon, Sandy and Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band, Vietnam Veteran Walter Pete Groomes, Ann Thomas Gilbert, and Kevin Dayhoff.
For the sake of history, this year six folks walked the Westminster Memorial Day parade route on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, accompanied by the Reese and Westminster fire departments, along with a police escort by Westminster Police Lt. Steve Launchi. Folks on the walk were Caroline Babylon, Sandy and Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band, Vietnam Veteran Walter Pete Groomes, Ann Thomas Gilbert, and Kevin Dayhoff.

On May 20, an article in the Carroll County Times left a simple, but perhaps the best explanation for future historians. “Due to the social distancing requirements of COVID-19, Westminster’s traditional Memorial Day Parade was canceled. However, the Memorial Day Observance Ceremony has been redesigned to include virtual and recorded presentations.”

It was Richard Turner, the executive director of the Community Media Center, who best explained, “The logistical challenges of COVID-19 caused us to embrace new technologies and adopt new methods for television production …”

According to an article by Catalina Righter for the Times on May 25, “Throughout Carroll County, people participated in Memorial Day tributes both small and virtual. … In a video at the town’s veteran’s memorial, Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw said, ‘I’m just so grateful to remember all those veterans who gave all and sacrificed so much so that we could be free today.’

“In Mount Airy, small groups gathered at a distance on Main Street for a ceremony. Navy veterans Marissa Johnson and Council President Larry Hushour spoke … Hushour shared the town’s tie to the history of poppies as a symbol of Memorial Day. Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., who wrote “In Flanders Fields,” the poem that inspired the symbolism, worked in Mount Airy at The Garrett Sanitarium…”

In a virtual ceremony at the Hampstead Memorial, Commissioner Richard Weaver gathered with folks including Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin, “to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. This year we won’t be seeing many of the traditional parades. … Our mission is that we remember and never forget ...”

Commissioner Stephen Wantz spoke in a virtual ceremony for the poignant annual Pleasant Valley observance. “We are experiencing an extraordinary time in our country and, as a result, today I come to you virtually. It is my honor to be asked to speak today for the Pleasant Valley community memorial service which has been a hometown event for over 80 years …”

In the Springfield Cemetery at the Springfield Presbyterian Church in Sykesville, Commissioner Ed Rothstein said in a virtual presentation, “Even with this pandemic, it should never deter us or slow us down in the importance of recognizing Memorial Day …”

In the May 20 Times article, “Paul J. Emmert Sr. Past Commander, Carroll Post 31 and Memorial Day ceremonies chairman said, ‘[We] didn’t want Memorial Day to pass without the recognition it is due. This year will be our 153rd consecutive observance of Memorial Day, and even though we had to cancel the actual parade, we have put together a wonderful ceremony and observance.’ ”

Well, hold that thought.

For the sake of history, this year six folks walked the parade route, accompanied by the Reese and Westminster fire departments, along with a police escort by Westminster Police Lt. Steve Launchi.

Advertisement

We traveled the traditional Memorial Day route on May 25 at 11 a.m. so that there can be no doubt that the string of continuous Memorial Day parades in Westminster, since 1868, remained unbroken.

The walk took place unannounced so that we did not attract a crowd of more than 10 people. The sole purpose of the walk was the preservation of one of Westminster’s most cherished traditions.

Folks on the walk were Caroline Babylon, Sandy and Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band, Vietnam veteran Walter Pete Groomes, Westminster councilperson Ann Thomas Gilbert, and this writer, who served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, stateside, from 1971-1973.

The Westminster Memorial Day ceremonies, which are reported to be the longest continuous observation of Memorial Day in the nation, have been a tradition in Westminster since the first parade was organized by Mary Bostwick Shellman in 1868.

Shellman continued organizing the annual parade and ceremonies until approximately 1932. It was then that the American Legion Carroll Post 31 took over and has been the driving force for the Memorial Day ceremonies ever since. J. Albert Mitten was the first chair the Memorial Day observances for Post 31. Mitten was succeeded by F. Kale Mathias in 1948, by Paul Smith in 1985, by Harry Emigh in 1994 and later by Daniel Bohn. In recent years, Paul Emmert has kept the parade and ceremonies going strong.

At 12-noon, Monday, May 25 Nickie Will Stephens, Caroline Babylon, Sandy, and Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band, Vietnam Veteran Walter Pete Groomes, Ann Thomas Gilbert, and Kevin Dayhoff gathered at the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial for our traditional annual Memorial Day prayer service. After a few short introductory remarks by Groomes, prayers were shared by Stephens, Gilbert, and Dayhoff. Taps was played by Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band.
At 12-noon, Monday, May 25 Nickie Will Stephens, Caroline Babylon, Sandy, and Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band, Vietnam Veteran Walter Pete Groomes, Ann Thomas Gilbert, and Kevin Dayhoff gathered at the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial for our traditional annual Memorial Day prayer service. After a few short introductory remarks by Groomes, prayers were shared by Stephens, Gilbert, and Dayhoff. Taps was played by Dave Miller of the Westminster Municipal Band. (Courtesy Dayhoff Babylon family photo)

At the end of the pop-up parade at the historic Westminster Cemetery, we placed a wreath at the historic large white urn in the cemetery’s sacred circle. Taps was played by Dave Miller.

According to a tradition begun in the late 1990s — at noon, after the walk, we had a short prayer service at the Vietnam Memorial in the park beside the historic courthouse in Westminster — within sight of the Westminster Cemetery.

Groomes spoke for many when according to Righter’s article, he said, “It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t do something.”

Amen.

Kevin Dayhoff is a Westminster councilmember. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

At the end of the pop-up parade on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020 at the historic Westminster Cemetery, a wreath was placed at the historic large white urn in the cemetery’s sacred circle. Taps was played by Westminster Municipal Band member Dave Miller. The Westminster Memorial Day ceremonies, which are reported to be the longest continuous observation of Memorial Day in the nation, have been a tradition in Westminster since the first parade was organized by Mary Bostwick Shellman in 1868.
At the end of the pop-up parade on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020 at the historic Westminster Cemetery, a wreath was placed at the historic large white urn in the cemetery’s sacred circle. Taps was played by Westminster Municipal Band member Dave Miller. The Westminster Memorial Day ceremonies, which are reported to be the longest continuous observation of Memorial Day in the nation, have been a tradition in Westminster since the first parade was organized by Mary Bostwick Shellman in 1868. (Kevin Dayhoff for Carroll County Times.)

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement