Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Links to Places That Matter: Memorial Day Weekend Edition

While Memorial Day is often a time for family gatherings, a long weekend away or a break from the office, it is also a time to honor the deeper meaning behind the holiday: paying tribute to the brave men and women who have given their lives in service to our nation.

The tradition of Memorial Day goes back to May 5, 1868, when it was officially proclaimed by Gen. John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the service of Union and Confederate soldiers who died in battle, according to USMemorialDay.org.

Over the years, Memorial Day traditions have taken root nationwide — from small-town parades and organized trips to historical landmarks like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to more intimate gatherings in places that matter to the people who have lost loved ones. Memorial Day is not only a public tribute, but a personal experience.

If you are undecided or need inspiration for your Memorial Day weekend, check your local paper and online city or events guide, or search Google for Memorial Day events near you.

Here are just a few of the many special Memorial Day weekend events across the United States:
  • Rolling Thunder is a nonprofit organization of both veterans and nonveterans who are united by one cause: “To bring full accountability for POWs and MIAs of all wars.” While not a prerequisite, many members ride motorcycles. Every May, several hundred riders make an annual cross-country trek from California to Washington, D.C. In our nation’s capital on Memorial Day weekend, they are joined by bikers from all over the United States for the Ride for Freedom, where enthusiastic crowds line the parade route from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The sights and sounds of 350,000 motorcycles and riders in continuous procession make for a moving and unforgettable experience — and a heartfelt tribute to our soldiers.
  • The Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, is holding its annual Flagging of the Graves ceremony, in which U.S. flags are placed at the burial sites of 3,500 men and women who have served our country. Afterward, there is a picnic for the volunteers. Interested in participating? Find more information at The Woodlawn Cemetery’s Web site.
  • Looking for a bit of art and culture to enjoy over your Memorial Day weekend? Visit Charleston, South Carolina for the annual Spoleto Festival, a cornucopia of music, dance, theater and visual-arts performances that spans 17 days. See the schedule of events for Memorial Day weekend at the Spoleto Festival Web site.
  • Head west to Virginia City, Montana, for a Living History Weekend, where visitors can immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle of life in a gold-mining town circa 1863. Feeling lucky? Then try your hand at panning for gold! Find out more at Virginia City’s Web site.
  • Galveston Island, Texas, has endured many tragedies over the years; but this ever-resilient city on the Gulf of Mexico is rebuilding and emerging stronger than ever. The Galveston Historical Foundation is holding a series of three concerts to support these efforts and to commemorate Galveston’s rich and distinguished history. The first concert takes place on the evening of Friday, May 22. Visit Galveston.com for more things to do in this beautiful city.
  • Kick off your Memorial Day weekend with a Friday night concert in Columbus, Indiana. The city’s Salute! concert is a free outdoor concert to honor area veterans. Find out more information at the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Web site.
  • For hiking and history along one of the nation’s most beautiful lakeshores, head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City, Michigan. On Memorial Day, there will be a relighting ceremony at the historic South Manitou Island Lighthouse, a favorite destination for hikers and outdoors enthusiasts. Read more about the event at MyNorth.com.

How do you plan to celebrate Memorial Day and spend your long weekend? Share your Memorial Day plans in the comments section below.



Kari Rippetoe is the Marketing Manager at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

photo credit: Flickr, "The Wall," by SkipSteuart

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