Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The patriotic traditions of Memorial Day in Minnesota May 31, 2011

Boy Scouts march down Faribault's Central Avenue, giving away small American flags, on Memorial Day.

A member of the Color Guard salutes at the Memorial Day program in Central Park.

YES, DEAR READERS, I have yet another Memorial Day post to share with you. But I cannot help myself. My parents reared me to respect this day as a time to honor our war dead.

Every year of my childhood, we attended the Memorial Day program in my hometown of Vesta on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. I continued that tradition with my children by taking them each year to the Memorial Day parade in Faribault.

It is a tradition my husband and I continue, minus the kids—two of whom are grown and gone and the third a teen that cannot be roused from bed for the 10 a.m. parade.

Now I smile at the young families who gather along the curb in downtown Faribault to watch the veterans and Boy Scouts, the old cars and horses, the Girl Scouts and the Shattuck-St. Mary’s crack squad, the police cars and fire truck and marching bands.

Little hands reach for American flags distributed by the walking, sometimes running, Boy Scouts.

Clutched fists wave American flags.

It’s all so patriotic.

After the parade, the crowd gathers at nearby Central Park for more patriotism and I am reminded of my dad, a Korean War vet, who marched so many times with his Color Guard in parades and programs.

In the park bandshell, the guests of honor sit, rise and tell us they have little to say before offering these words:

“Your wars aren’t all won on the battlefield. They’re also won at home.”

“If you know a veteran, just say, ‘thank you.’ It means so much to them—something Vietnam vets were short of.”

“I salute all veterans here.”

“God bless everybody.”

“God bless America.”

The Color Guard leads the way in the Faribault Memorial Day parade.

These Boy Scouts seem a bit indecisive, while other Boy Scouts race toward the crowd to hand out American flags.

Every year the Boy Scouts give away flags during the parade.

A veteran and others wait for the Memorial Day program to start at Central Park.

The Color Guard advances and the Memorial Day observance begins in Central Park.

The Color Guard soldiers salute. Emcee and radio announcer Gordy Kosfeld, on stage at the podium, will later tell us: "Memorial Day should be a time of reflection, not a holiday."

A strong wind blew the Color Guard flags set next to the bandshell stage at Central Park.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling