The list of cancellations grows, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DeForest High School Alumni Foundation has announced the cancellation of their annual banquet.

This is the first banquet cancellation in its 110 year history. You can’t hold a banquet if you don’t have a place to hold it and it looks like all banquet halls and restaurants will still be closed or open with severe restrictions around the first of June and so it will not happen this year.

It was also announced this past week that the Memorial Day program that is held in DeForest Veterans Memorial Park will also be canceled this year. I understand the reasons for the cancellation, but I will miss the moving memorial program that local veterans groups put forth on this special holiday.

Some folks may spend part of Memorial Day going out to the cemetery and visiting the grave sites of loved ones. This is how Memorial Day was observed years ago. My mother used to recall as a young girl she would join the family and walk out to the cemetery behind Norway Grove Lutheran Church.

Back then, this was a gravel road and she would be wearing her best white dress with white shoes and stockings. The road would be either dusty or muddy. It was a long walk out to the cemetery and by the time she got back her shoes, stockings and dress were either mud splattered or covered with dust.

I remember the Memorial Day observances when they were held in Fireman’s Park in DeForest. A parade would start things off. It would start at the high school — which is now the Holum Education Center — and go down Holum until Main Street, then turn left, go just one block and turn left on Commerce Street and end up in the park. It was not a very large parade.

The DeForest High School band would lead things off. This was the only parade that the band played in during the summer. They were followed by cars carrying the Gold Star Mothers and the Commander of the American Legion Post. Then came a hay wagon with some of the older World War I veterans sitting on metal folding chairs. They were followed by the younger veterans marching. Also joining in the parade were the local boy scouts, girl scouts and cub scouts.

The band would play a couple of patriotic songs and marches. Then the Gold Star Mothers would carry forward a wreath and place it on a mock grave. “Taps” would be played, the firing squad would shoot off a gun salute and the flag would be raised from half mast to full mast. Most of the crowd would stick around for a short talk by one of the local clergy and then all would enjoy a picnic lunch served by the ladies of the Legion Auxiliary.

It was a typical small town Memorial Day Observance that I always looked forward to.

Dick Emerson is the former publisher of the DeForest Times-Tribune.

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