Farmersville Memorial Day Parade, Exeter and Visalia cemetery ceremonies canceled due to COVID-19
FARMERSVILLE – After 66 consecutive years of parading through town on the fourth Monday of May, Farmersville Boulevard will be unusually quiet this Memorial Day.
Paul Boyer, who co-chairs the parade committee for the Farmersville Kiwanis Club, said the club has decided to cancel the parade.
“I still think we should find ways to recognize Memorial Day and I know there are a lot of other things that will be done around the county,” Boyer said. “I’m hoping there will be some virtual things.”
The parade is Farmersville’s longest running tradition. It typically starts at 10 a.m. and is an endless caravan of youth sports teams, school floats, classic cars, local dignitaries and officials that stretches halfway across town along Farmersville Boulevard from Visalia Road north to Front Street.
“Even if we did have a parade, we wouldn’t have any kids’ sports teams in it,” Boyer said.
Another issue with this year’s parade was funding. Most of the trophies and other costs associated with putting on the parade were covered through advertising sales in the parade program. In addition to businesses being affected by the pandemic, Boyer said there was no one to design the program or place the ads. For the last few years, that job was handled by students in the graphic design course at Farmersville High School. But that class isn’t being offered online through the high school for the remainder of the spring semester.
“There’s just no way that’s going to happen,” Boyer said. “We’ve had to return checks to the few businesses that bought ads. Everything is really in limbo like everything else in the country.”
After considering current guidance from the Governor as well as the National American Legion, State American Legion and District American Legion, American Legion Post 94 in Exeter announced last week they are canceling the annual Memorial Day Service at the Exeter Cemetery.
“It is with a heavy heart that I must announce to the community that the Memorial Day Service and placement of the gravesite flags at the Exeter Cemetery will be canceled due to the Coronavirus,” said Col. (ret) Jim Mainwaring, Commander for Post 94.
Traditionally, the America Legion would invite the public to help place 1,300 small crosses and flags at the graves of local veterans on the Saturday before the event. But the early morning hours this Saturday, May 23 will not see an army of people setting up the flags. Veterans buried in the cemetery date back to the Civil War and are as recent as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Due to an abundance of caution, the uncertainties surrounding the virus, and my concern for the health and wellbeing of our community, especially the older veterans and others at risk, I have made this very difficult decision to cancel the placing of the flags and our usual Memorial Day Service,” he wrote in a message to The Sun-Gazette. “The American Legion Post members will be setting out the Avenue of Flags display to honor the veterans as usual.”
Originally scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on May 25, the American Legion ceremony opened with Boy Scouts Troop 309 in Exeter raising the American flag and then lowering it to half mast. The Exeter Unified High School Monarch marching band normally plays a medley of songs from each branch of the U.S. Military before the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 94 will lay a ceremonial wreath at the monument to the unknown soldier. A trumpet player from the band typically concludes the service with the traditional playing of Taps.
Mainwaring said The American Legion’s position is not a singular one. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who usually serve at the memorial national cemeteries will not be doing so this Memorial Day. No military or National cemetery will conduct special services. The Department of Veterans affairs has cancelled all Memorial Day activities.
“I ask the community for their understanding and to take some time this Memorial Day to pause and remember the service and sacrifice that the veterans made for our country,” Mainwaring said. “Our Governor has specified social distancing and no more than ten people at social gatherings. These reasons and common sense dictates that we too, cancel our traditional Memorial Day activities and look forward to better days ahead.”
Small display in Visalia
Visalia Cemetery announced that the Avenue of Flags in Visalia has been postponed as well. The cemetery said there would be a “small display” on Memorial Day but “no presentation or gathering,” according to its web site VisaliaCem.org/avenue-of-flags.
There’s nothing small about the cemetery’s traditional Memorial Day where 6,000 flags flay along the cemetery’s main road and at the graves of military veterans. The 2,250 flags that once draped the caskets of those who laid down their life for freedom are raised along the Avenue of Flags.
The annual ceremony is organized by the Avenue of Flags Committee made up of former service members from two American Legion Posts, AmVets, Central Valley Vietnam Veterans, Military Officers Association, Sea Cadets, a Kiwanis Club and two Lions Clubs.
While no ceremony will be held in the pavilion on Memorial Day, the Visalia Cemetery does offer three points of interest to the public beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at noon. These include the old mausoleum, heritage chapel and the 101-year-old Civil War statue. The Visalia Cemetery is located at 1300 W. Goshen Ave.