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

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6 Responses to “The patriotic traditions of Memorial Day in Minnesota”

  1. Just beautiful! So nice to know that some people understand that Memorial day is more than just a day off from work, BBQ and watermelon.

    I also wanted to stop by here and tell you Thank you! Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment about my son Jay’s story. It meant the world to him and to me! He was so proud! My heart swelled to see him just as much as it does when I see your pictures of the American Flag above! Thank you for that.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Likewise, thanks for stopping by Minnesota Prairie Roots.

      Memorial Day has always held special significance for me, especially because of my dad’s military service in Korea.

  2. Bernie Says:

    I think that giving out flags at a parade is much more appropriate than giving out candy. Another great photo essay!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I agree. But parade participants also tossed out candy and the kids loved it. Without candy, the kids may not be as excited about going to a parade.

  3. I wanted to give a “shout out” to a fellow “heartlander.” Thanks for this post. Your photos are beautiful. These holidays mean a lot to me, as well. My family was there in Vietnam:

    http://tinyurl.com/64au22b

    We must always honor them!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Fellow, heartlander/Minnesotan, thanks for stopping by Minnesota Prairie Roots to check out my writing and images.

      I just checked out your blog and see I’ll have to do some reading. Your topics definitely interest me, especially with that Minnesota spin.

      As for our soldiers, my father fought on the front line during the Korean War. Like most who have served in conflict, he spoke very little about his experiences. I shall always respect and honor those who serve our country in a war zone for they give so much of themselves for freedom.


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