Celebrate Commemorate in Waterloo

On a spring day in 1865, Waterloo, NY druggist Henry C. Welles watched as a lone widow walked to the cemetery to place flowers on the grave of her deceased Civil War soldier husband. How soon they forget, Welles thought, resolving to do something to make sure that those who gave their lives in defense of their country would not be forgotten. Working with Gen. John B. Murray, Welles planned the first Memorial Day in Waterloo in 1866, and for 150 consecutive years, Waterloo’s citizens have remembered with parades, prayers and ceremonies. On May 26, 1966, that consistency inspired President Lyndon Johnson to sign a Presidential Proclamation recognizing Waterloo as the official Birthplace of Memorial Day. “This is our heritage!“ explained deputy Mayor Dave Duprey, co-chair of the 150th observance. “We must continue what Mr. Welles and General Murray started 150 years ago. It is an honor to be recognized as the Official Birthplace of Memorial Day, but with that honor comes responsibility.” That’s why a committee of veterans groups and community leaders has been meeting for more than a year to ensure this year’s events are bigger and better than ever. This May, the village will come alive with a “Norman Rockwell” feel as the Birthplace of Memorial Day observes the 150th consecutive Memorial Day. The goal: To take Waterloo back to the first Memorial Day in 1866 through Living History, while continuing to present the myriad of events that has made Celebrate Commemorate so successful. “I am humbled by the patriotism in this little Upstate village of about 5000 people, my hometown” said Jane Shaffer. “As co-chair of Celebrate Commemorate for the past 17 years, it has been my privilege to work with the committee of nearly 40 volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to honoring our veterans. This year will be our most ambitious observance ever.” A month of observances is planned, including parades, balls, presentations and a motorcycle bike rally. The month will kick off with historical walking tours and a dinner theater reenactment of the history of Memorial Day on May 5, the traditional Memorial Day. The Waterloo Women’s Research Club will present a “Walk Through Time” Fashion Show and Tea at the 200 year old Waterloo Presbyterian Church on May 14. The 17th annual Celebrate Commemorate observance during the weekend of May 27-29 will bring thousands of people “home” to Waterloo to participate events to delight every family member. They include musical concerts, arts and craft shows, children’s games and performances, a youth essay contest, fireworks, a 5K race, car show and a big parade celebrating our freedom at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 28. The parade’s honor float will feature eight World War II Navy Vets who trained at Sampson Naval Base, now a state park, wounded warriors from the VA Hospital in Canandaigua, escorted by scores of Patriot Guard and American Legion motorcycle riders, bands, floats, and military groups including National Guard and active military troops. Outstanding bands will perform in the parade including the Mighty St. Joe’s Alumni Band from Batavia, Towpath Fife and Drum Corps from Palmyra, Excelsior Cornet Band, Finger Lakes Pipes and Drums and Albion High School band.During Celebrate Commemorate weekend, Waterloo will host the largest concentration of Civil War reenactors in one site in the Northeast. Groups will gather from throughout the Eastern United States, including infantry, signal crops, artillery, US Colored Troops from New York City, and fraternal organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic and it’s Allied Orders; Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 (DUVCW), Auxiliary to the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (ASUVCW), including two Past Presidents of the DUVCW. The Confederate counterparts have been invited and will share in our commemoration.There will be encampments of both Union and Confederate reenactors presenting Living Histories of Civil War camp life including many events such as camp cooking, children’s crafts, military training and drills, a Grand Review with President Lincoln, presentations by Civil War surgeons, morticians, sutlers, photographers, artillery with cannon fire, commands by Harriet Tubman and support by the Christian Commission and the Sanitary Commission. Frederick Douglass will share his address as given at Arlington Cemetery on Decoration Day. A special Reconciliation Event will take place Saturday, May 28th at Waterloo’s, American Civil War Memorial. This memorial was built by the citizens in honor of those men from Waterloo who died in the Civil War. The Reconciliation Event will bring the North and South together for healing and reuniting.Special “dignitaries” will include President Lincoln portrayed by Fritz Kline, President and Mrs. Grant ( Mr. and Mrs. Larry Clowers), Harriet Tubman (Carolyn Evans), Frederick Douglass (Michael E. Crutcher Sr.), General Lee (Norman Joy), Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner (Doug McGovern), Dr. Mary Walker and spy Belle Boyd ( Marilyn Dirk), Clara Barton (Eleanor Sterns), Northern sympathizer Elizabeth Van Lew (Nancy Karasinski), mortician (Don Williams), Rev. Scott ( Marty Hillman), Sisterhood of Spies (Karasinski and friends), Mary Gahan of the 148th NYVI ( Caren Cleaveland), Civil War surgeon (Fred Till), Christian Commission by Beth and Jessica Cade, Colonel John B. Murray ( Tim Bills) and President Teddy Roosevelt (Gib Young).As a special honor, the 20th and 26th United States Colored Troops from New York City has confirmed they will attend. The USCT has worked with both Frederick Douglass (Michael Crutcher) and Harriett Tubman (Carolyn Evans) in the past. Their presence will give Living History presentations a totally new prospective. During the Civil War, the Village of Waterloo was not only committed to supporting the Union efforts, but also was well positioned in the Underground Railroad with several houses being used as stations for runaway slaves. The village also was the Birthplace of the Women’s Rights movement when women met at the M’Clintock House to write the Declaration of Sentiments and plan the first Women’s Rights Convention held in nearby Seneca Falls in 1848.. Women’s Rights National Historical Park will have special events at the M’Clintock House during the weekend, including a return visit by the popular Gib Young as President Teddy Roosevelt.And the National Memorial Day Museum, located in a historic brick home on East Main Street, will have a special exhibit of Civil War White House china. Purchased by President James and used in the White House until the Lincoln years.On May 30, which Waterloo always observes as Memorial Day in keeping with Logan’s Orders, children will decorate graves of veterans, there will be prayer services in the village cemeteries, the village’s VFW and American Legion will conduct a military parade at 4 pm. Ceremonies in Lafayette Park will feature government officials and special dignitaries.Come to Waterloo, Seneca County, New York to pay tribute to our honored dead from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. Check for detailed information and updates at www.waterloony.com

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