The Ames Memorial Day Parade, which has celebrated veterans throughout the community for more than 145 years, is postponed this year to protect those involved from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a major event for our community, and it was a very difficult decision to make,” said Tim Gartin, president of Ames Patriotic Council and Ames City Council member. “It was easy from the standpoint (that), because of the crowds, we couldn’t host the event and be in compliance in the rules on crowds.”
Gartin added the event is “a very important event for our community … on Memorial Day we are all Americans, and we say thank you to those who have served our country.”
This year, the Ames Patriotic Council also wanted to honor “all those who have worn a uniform and served during (COVID-19),” State Sen. Herman Quirmbach said.
“We want to, of course, honor military veterans, but this year we wanted to broaden it out to honor the people who wear a lot of other uniforms this year … There are a whole lot of people who have stayed on the job despite personal risk.”
Alex Fejfar, exhibits manager at Ames History Museum, said the earliest recording of the Ames parade occurred in 1875 — back when Memorial Day was called Decoration Day.
Nearly 100 years after Ames began celebrating Decoration Day, the official name was changed to Memorial Day in 1971.
Although the Memorial Day Parade is a little different than an average parade — as no candy is thrown and no floats are driven down Main Street — the solemn celebration has been important to the community, Quirmbach said. Residents of all ages still gather together and traditionally walk from City Hall to Ames Municipal Cemetery at 310 E. Ninth St., where a program celebrating those who have served begins.
Typically, during the ceremony, Ames Municipal Band play patriotic music, a singer performs and members of the Color Guard present red, white and blue colors. The program also has a keynote speaker who shares the importance of celebrating all those who have served their country, whether they’re still alive or have passed on, Gartin said.
Last year’s parade was cancelled due to poor weather, but the ceremony was still held in Ames City Auditorium.
Though the parade is postponed, the American Legion Post No. 37 in Ames is still planning to show their respects for Memorial Day by placing flags on every light pole up and down Main Street, visiting each cemetery in Ames and honoring veterans through a 21 gun salute, according to Legions Vice Commander Denny Krogh.
“It’s a bummer (the parade and ceremony) isn’t happening, but we still want to honor the veterans who have given it all, including my grandpa’s brother who was killed at Pearl Harbor,” Krogh said. “We all know people (who have served), and hopefully people will still remember (those veterans) even though there is no parade or ceremony this year.”
Quirmbach said the Patriotic Council hopes to be able to honor veterans and essential workers later this month, but the decision depends on the global health pandemic.
“If we can find a date later on this summer, or maybe early on in the fall, we can have a similar sort of event. We would not want to miss this opportunity, but public health concerns are going to dominate,” he said.