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West Hartford to Hold Mix of In-Person and Virtual Memorial Day Events

Flag planting at Fairview Cemetery. Courtesy of Jen Evans (we-ha.com file photo)

The Memorial Day parade has been canceled for 2021, but West Hartford will celebrate with a virtual Memorial Day program as well as flag-planting and an in-person ceremony by the American Legion.

By Ronni Newton

Many of West Hartford’s ritual experiences continued to be altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as in 2020, the town’s 2021 annual Memorial Day parade has been canceled – a decision made in March based on the information that was available at the time.

The parade takes months of preparation, typically involves thousands of young people from sports teams and scout troops – most of whom are too young to be vaccinated for COVID-19 – and high school and middle school bands, which have not been practicing in a traditional manner.

“We certainly have not forgotten Memorial Day,” West Hartford Public Relations Specialist Renée McCue said. Plans include flag planting at Fairview Cemetery the weekend in advance (Saturday, May 22), and an official Memorial Day ceremony that will be released on West Hartford Community Interactive at 10:30 a.n. on May 31 – the date and time when the parade would ordinarily be held.

“Memorial Day is a holiday in which we honor the more than 1 million men and women who have lost their lives defending America since the Revolutionary War. For West Hartford, 236 brave souls answered the call and paid the ultimate price to defend our nation’s freedom since 1776. By remembering them, we honor their service,” a press release issued by the town states.

The town’s virtual ceremony on May 31, assembled by West Hartford Community Interactive, will include the West Hartford Police Department and West Hartford Fire Department color guards, and performances by Conard Solo Choir singing the National Anthem and Bennett Johnson, an eighth grader at King Philip Middle School, playing TAPS.

The program will also include a special message from Mayor Shari Cantor, Pastor Bob Knebel of West Hartford United Methodist Church will give a prayer, and Patrick Harrell, post commander of American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96 and a Marine Corps veteran, will deliver the keynote address.

The ceremony will conclude with a list of West Hartford veterans who have passed away since last Memorial Day, with the names scrolling at the end of the program.

The program will air beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Comcast channel 5, Frontier channel 6098, and on YouTube.

A brief in-person ceremony will also take place on Memorial Day, May 31, at 10:30 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial at the corner of North Main Street and Farmington Avenue.

Hosted by the American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96, the ceremony will pay tribute to the late Joe Donahue, a West Hartford resident and author of the Connecticut Veterans Memorial book.

The book, he result of Donahue’s research, contains brief biographies of each person from West Hartford who gave their life to our country. During the ceremony, American Legion members will read the name of the first person to die in each of the wars and then ring the bell.

The final name to be read will be Larry Philippon, who died in Iraq on May 8, 2005.

The American Legion and local scout troops also invite the public to participate in placing American flags on the graves of 1,200 veterans at Fairview Cemetery. The flag planting event starts at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 22, 2021.

Participants must check in at the American Legion table outside the cemetery office and will then be assigned a section of the cemetery to place flags.

State of Connecticut COVID protocols will be in place at both outdoor events.

We-Ha.com will publish the Memorial Day video as soon as it is released.

Trash, recycling, and yard waste pick-up will be delayed by one day the week of May 31 in observation of Memorial Day.

McCue noted that planning is underway for the town’s next parade – the Park Road parade – which is scheduled to be held on Oct. 2, 2021.

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