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Brainerd's Memorial Day ceremony threatened

Brainerd’s Memorial Day ceremony, a tradition for at least 45 years, is threatened this year because of a lack of volunteers.

Judy Wayt, secretary-treasurer for the Brainerd Area Memorial Day Committee, said this week only five to six people, mostly committee members, have attended planning sessions this year. It takes between six to eight people, working for about an hour to set up 90 flags along the Evergreen Cemetery fence. Workers are needed at 6 a.m. Memorial Day and at 6 p.m. (for another approximate hour of work) to take those flags down. Also, workers are needed the Saturday before Memorial Day to set up about 140 flags at Evergreen Cemetery and Memorial Gardens.

This year, Wayt said, the committee is looking for cedar boughs that will be placed into wire rings for wreaths that are used during the ceremonies. Tentative plans call for those wreaths to be put together the Thursday before Memorial Day.

There is a degree of physical exertion needed to perform some of the tasks and some members of the committee are of an age where that work is difficult.

“I’m no longer able to lift those (flags that go along the cemetery fence),” Wayt said. “So many of us are past 65.

“Financially, we’re OK for a few years,” she said. “We’ve had generous donations from the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). It’s boots on the ground (that are needed).”

Other jobs that need to be done are the computer design of programs for the day’s activities and the posting of no parking signs in northeast Brainerd for the parade.

People who are willing to help with some of the preparations are encouraged to attend the Brainerd Memorial Day Committee’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Brainerd VFW. More information may be obtained by calling Wayt at 839-6007 or Dick Lyscio at 851-1753.

Traditionally, Memorial Day activities begin at 8:30 a.m. when a wreath is dropped off the Laurel Street Bridge into the Mississippi River in honor of those who have died at sea, followed by a brief ceremony at the All Veterans Memorial near the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse on Laurel Street. Staging for a 9:30 a.m. parade to Evergreen Cemetery in northeast Brainerd is conducted after that ceremony near First Avenue Northeast and Washington Street.

The ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery traditionally includes a recitation of the Gettysburg Address by a student, a rifle volley and a bugler’s rendition of taps.

Wayt, a member of the Brainerd VFW Auxiliary, said committee members will probably need to make a decision on whether it can organize Memorial Day ceremonies by April 20. Her own participation with the program goes back about 18 years. She said it’s an activity she enjoys.

“It really is a lot of fun,” she said.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860