This story appears in the May 27-June 2 edition of The Centre County Gazette.
For the second year in row, there will be no carnival, parade or Day in Town celebration in Boalsburg to celebrate Memorial Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but event organizers are planning some things to get to “some level of normalcy” while also looking to hold a smaller celebration sometime in October.
The town lays claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day with observances dating back to October 1864. At that time, Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller and Elizabeth Meyer paid tribute to loved ones lost in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves.
According to the event website: “This day of remembering became a tradition held annually in Boalsburg, and slowly the neighboring communities began observing ‘Decoration Day’ each spring. On May 5, 1868, only four years after that first meeting in the burial ground, General John A. Logan, then commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued an order. He named May 30, 1868 as a day ‘for the purpose of comrades who died in defense of their country’ the order was signed and was kept from year to year.”
So, on Monday, “we will be doing the walk to the cemetery at 6 p.m., just as we have forever,” event chairman Jeff Fisher said. The walk starts at 5:45 p.m. at the diamond in the heart of town. “Then we have a small ceremony honoring the veterans, all those who have served. We have Girl Scouts putting wreaths on flags. Local Boy Scouts will be raising the flag … We want to make sure the ceremony continues as it has in the past.”
The event will be streamed live on the Harris Township Facebook page and Fisher said there is enough space for people to social distance at the cemetery.
“I encourage people throughout the weekend, not only at the Boalsburg cemetery, but at other cemeteries, to decorate people’s, especially veteran’s, graves with flowers. It is a very important day,” Fisher added.
Earlier that the day, the annual 3.8-mile Boalsburg Memorial Day Run/Walk will kick off at 8:30 a.m., sending runners around town in groups of 20 in order to maintain distancing. Runners will be asked to wear masks to the starting line and can choose to take it off or leave it on while running the race.
Registration is available is available online and the race is limited to 200 runners.
“We thought we should start to get back to some normalcy by having the race,” Fisher said. “Unfortunately, we cannot have the day in town and the fire company is not having the carnival, because it would almost have to be gated type of thing, count people in and count people out. Although the governor did ease restrictions, we just didn’t have enough time to put that together.”
Fisher said missing out on the event for two years in a row has been difficult for the fire company and other smaller organization that use the event as their main fundraiser.
“I think for the whole town, the little shops and the people who live in Boalsburg, the Military Museum, the Boal Mansion, those places always have some type of fundraiser during the Day in the Town … It is just terrible that we can’t do what we have done in the past,” Fisher said.
Looking to remember that first tribute, back in October 1864, event organizers hope to hold a “Mini-Memorial Day” celebration in town in October.
They are looking for a potential Saturday in without a home game for Penn State.
“We are just waiting to see what restrictions are lifted, but we are looking for something in October to reopen and get the community moving again, which is important so people can get their lives up and running and we can get back to some normalcy, whatever that normalcy might be,” Fisher said.