Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memorial Day in Faribault’s Central Park May 31, 2016

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A sizable crowd gathered Monday morning in Faribault's Central Park for the annual Memorial Day program.

A sizable crowd gathered Monday morning in Faribault’s Central Park for the annual Memorial Day program.

FOR ME, PHOTOGRAPHING any place or event is about the details as much as the whole. Details are like words, which when strung together, create sentences and then a story.

Details are as precise as the properly placed gloved hands of a veteran.

Details are as precise as the properly placed gloved hands of a veteran.

On Memorial Day at Faribault’s Central Park, details were written into the annual post parade ceremony honoring our veterans and war dead.

The honor/color guard.

The honor guard.

Veterans dressed in pressed uniforms, formal in attire. Crisp. Snap. Salute. Precision marked their movements. Such formality evokes evidence of honor, most suitable for this occasion.

A veteran plays taps at the conclusion of the program.

A veteran plays taps at the conclusion of the program.

Taps mourned and guns fired. Flags rippled. Protocol held utmost importance.

A patriotic cap hangs from a bicycle.

A patriotic cap hangs from a bicycle.

Dressed appropriately for Memorial Day.

Dressed appropriately for Memorial Day.

And in the audience I observed a dress code of patriotic reverence for this day. Red, white and blue prevailed.

I noticed even the flag on the back of this man's cap.

I noticed even the flag on the back of this man’s cap.

A child waves a flag.

A child waves a flag.

Nestled on his grandpa's lap, this young boy holds an American flag.

Nestled on his grandpa’s lap, this young boy holds an American flag.

American flags, too, were noticeable.

Wreaths placed on the cross represent the wars in which the U.S. has been involved.

Wreaths placed on and below the cross represent the wars in which the U.S. has been involved.

On occasions like this, I feel a deep sense of pride that my community cares enough about those who have served to present, participate in and attend a Memorial Day program in the park.

Veterans walk through the crowd after advancing the colors.

Veterans walk through the crowd after advancing the colors.

We care about this great nation of ours, about our freedom, about our family members and others who have served in the U.S. military.

A member of the honor guard.

A member of the honor guard.

I noticed this poppy pinned to a veteran's uniform.

I noticed a poppy pinned to a veteran’s uniform.

Veterans wait.

Veterans wait.

I am grateful to live in this country, grateful to gather in a city park, grateful to have the uncensored freedom to photograph the details, to document this event in images and words.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Cannon City: A grassroots Americana commemoration of Memorial Day

The entrance to the Cannon City Cemetery is decorated for Memorial Day.

The entrance to the Cannon City Cemetery is decorated for Memorial Day.

THERE’S A CERTAIN SENSE of comfort in tradition. For nearly 100 years, folks have gathered each Memorial Day at the Cannon City Cemetery to honor our veterans.

This shows a portion of those gathered for Monday's semi-formal program.

This shows a portion of those gathered for Monday’s semi-formal program.

In the shade of spruce and cedar trees and surrounded by gravestones, I listened to natives read The Gettysburg Address, Freedom, What Heroes Gave and more; recite In Flanders Fields; and recall the history of this celebration. A Civil War veteran initially asked students from the village school to put on a Memorial Day program. In those early years, pupils marched from the school to the cemetery bearing floral wreaths. Today the cemetery board organizes this annual observance.

Mel Sanborn, left, emceed the program.

Mel Sanborn, left, emceed the program.

Song sheets were distributed to those in attendance and then collected to save for next year.

Song sheets were distributed to those in attendance and then collected to save for next year.

Don, on the guitar, and Judy Chester lead the singing.

Don, on the guitar, and Judy Chester lead the singing.

We sang patriotic songs like The Star Spangled Banner, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and America the Beautiful, some accompanied by a guitar, some not. Voices rose 40-plus strong above the shrill of a cardinal and the distant muffle of gunfire. Sun shone. Breeze rippled.

A bronze star marks a veteran's grave.

A bronze star marks a veteran’s grave.

The Cannon City Cemetery offers an ideal setting for a grassroots remembrance of those who have served our country. Therein lies its appeal to me.

Giving the history of and then reciting In Flanders Fields.

Giving the history of and then reciting In Flanders Fields.

I have no connection to this place where nearly 50 veterans are buried. But this ceremony reminds me of the Memorial Day programs of my youth. As an aging senior recited In Flanders Fields, I mouthed the words I recited so many years ago on the stage of the Vesta Community Hall.

Fields surround the cemetery.

Fields surround the cemetery where American flags marked veterans’ graves on Memorial Day.

In its peaceful location among farm fields, this cemetery reminds me of home. Of tradition.

Sam Wilson ends the program by playing taps.

Sam Wilson ends the program by playing taps.

And when taps sounded, I was reminded, too, of just how much some sacrificed so that I could stand here, in this cemetery, on Memorial Day, hand across heart reciting The Pledge of Allegiance.

Cannon City native Bob Lewis is a fixture at the annual Memorial Day program. Locals are already tapping his historical knowledge in preparation for the 150th anniversary celebration.

Cannon City native Bob Lewis is a fixture at the annual Memorial Day program. Locals are already tapping his historical knowledge in preparation for the 150th anniversary celebration in 2017.

FYI: Next year the Cannon City Cemetery turns 150 years old. Plans are already underway for a special celebration to mark the occasion. If you want to experience grassroots Americana on Memorial Day, this is the place to be.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling