Marching in May
How did our Memorial Day parade get its start?
In 1868, following the Civil War, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a general order designating May 30 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.” For 14 years thereafter, the day was known as Decoration Day. In 1882, the Grand Army pushed a name change to Memorial Day. It was recognized as an official federal holiday in 1971.
Commemorations were few and isolated until the end of the 19th century when the day became more nationally celebrated. After WWI, the holiday was expanded to honor those who had died in all American wars. By the 1940s, Fairfield was regularly marking the day with a town parade, starting at the Post Road and South Pine Creek Road and ending at Old Post Road and Beach Road. The parade’s size was a third of what it is today and was limited to scouting groups, the American Legion, police, and military groups. All marchers received an ice cream, and the fire department, then located at Firehouse Deli, held an open house with food.
Today, hopeful revelers leave chairs and blankets along the parade route days in advance. A pancake breakfast at St. Paul’s Church precedes the parade, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Afterward, a community picnic is held at Fairfield Museum.
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