Volunteers sought to help keep annual tradition running smoothly

GRAFTON—After the annual tradition had to be altered due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, the Memorial Day Parade, in all its glory, will once again take to the streets of Grafton.

Each year, residents and guests fill the streets of Downtown Grafton in anticipation of the annual Memorial Day Parade, but many do not understand the level of work that goes into making the treasured tradition such a success. 

For most, it is a time to pull up a chair, sit back and relax, while they enjoy the event honoring those men and women who bravely gave their all for freedoms enjoyed by so many today. For others, it is a day of organization, planning, running and a great deal of hard work.

Without the hard work and dedication of a group of volunteers, the parade would not come to be. And, without their enthusiasm and commitment to the parade, it would have not grown into the sight that it is today, earning it the recognition of the official Memorial Day Parade for West Virginia.

The West Virginia Memorial Day Committee is comprised of individuals seeking to keep traditions alive in Grafton.

Now that the parade has returned to its former pre-Covid glory, the committee is looking for additional individuals to join their ranks to help plan, organize and provide another great parade lineup for all who attend.

“We are in desperate need of volunteers to help with this year’s parade,” shared committee member Mary Wagner. “So, if you’d like to help, please attend one of our meetings to get started.”

“It really requires a lot of work from countless volunteers to make this celebration a success,” commented Parade Committee Chairman Scott Willis.

Each year, shortly after the parade comes to a close, the group begins meeting to start planning and preparation for the next year’s event.

This group of volunteers devote numerous hours to the annual tradition, that so many residents, past residents and guests to the area can come together in memory of those who have fallen in the quest for freedom and enjoy a fun, fabulous event.

For more than 150 years, Grafton residents and guests have been celebrating and honoring the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States with the annual Memorial Day Parade and ceremonies.

The parade, which draws in tens of thousands of individuals annually, began as “Flower Strewing Day.” On May 30, 1869, Mayor William Mallonee issued a proclamation urging citizens to turn out at the Grafton National Cemetery, located on Walnut Street, to decorate the graves of the fallen with fresh flowers.

The day held on to its name until 1882, when the Reno Post Number 7, Grafton Unit of the Grand Army of the Republic was organized and adopted the name Memorial Day.

Since that time, citizens have been honoring the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the country with the annual parade and observances at the cemetery. 

In 1987, the West Virginia National Cemetery was created in nearby Pruntytown, and the West Virginia Memorial Day Committee held its first observance at the location in 1988.

Although Memorial Day wasn’t officially designated as a holiday by the Federal Government until the 1970’s, the parade route that is followed is the same one that was established in 1890. Aside from slight changes due to construction of bridges through the years, the parade has remained along the traditional route.

In 1980, the West Virginia Memorial Day, Inc. was formed to combine the efforts of the many groups who had been in charge of the parade, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and other veteran organizations.

This caring, dedicated and compassionate group of individuals work together all year long planning and promoting the year’s upcoming parade.

If you are interested in becoming part of an annual tradition that had garnered the attention of folks from all over for its prestige and reputation, the committee would love to have you join with them.

The WV Memorial Day Committee meets on the first Monday of each month in the Grafton City Council Chambers, located at 1 West Main Street, Grafton, beginning at 7:00 p.m. As parade day inches closer, those meetings are held each week throughout the month of May.

Their next meeting will be held on Monday, May 16, and the committee members would love to see you there!


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