A Memorial Day tradition in Flatwoods will not take place this year for the first time in more than a decade.
The Flatwoods Woman’s Club announced this week its annual service to honor veterans buried at the Bellefonte Memorial Gardens has been suspended at the request of cemetery officials.
For years, the club has overseen the placement of hundreds of luminaries on veterans’ grave sites; luminaries are lit on Memorial Day just before dusk. A short service, including a presentation of the colors, pledge of allegiance, national anthem, guest speaker and a prayer, also was canceled, said Anna Gibson, president of the Flatwoods Woman’s Club.
Gibson said cemetery officials informed the club the event could not continue because of the heavy traffic it causes in the cemetery. The club, she said, is “very, very disappointed.”
“We talked it over and we just decided we just won’t do anything,” said Gibson, “I am hoping maybe next year we can start up again.”
She said dozens of volunteers help the club to prepare, place and pick up the luminaries on more than 1,500 grave sites of veterans. “With all the candles lit and the dark moving in, you just looked across that cemetery and it was beautiful,” said Gibson. The ceremony was typically attended by dozens and others drive through the cemetery to see the luminaries, she added.
Gibson, like many others in the club, has family members buried there. “It just baffled me completely,” she said. “That weekend, it is really going to hit me,” she added.
Bellefonte Memorial Gardens director Penny Preston said Tuesday the cemetery asked the group not to do the luminaries portion of the event this year.
“There is so much traffic in the cemetery, people come to decorate the graves you would not believe the congestion,” she said, noting there were several complaints last year.
Volunteers assisting with the project, explained Preston, work for days in advance of the Monday holiday, hauling the sand needed to weigh down the luminary bags through the cemetery in carts. “It was just too congested. Our roads aren’t very big and it was dangerous trying to haul those carts through there,” said Preston. “When (other) people are trying to decorate their graves, it was confusing. Then you throw in a funeral with that and it really got confusing,” she added.
Preston said shd had hoped the other activities, including the ceremony, would continue. “The luminaries, that is what we don’t want. A memorial service would be wonderful,” she said. Flags, she said, would continue to be placed on veterans’ grave sites, a task completed by another local group.
Gibson said the club was told it would not be permitted to do any type of service this year — luminaries were not singled out. She said she was unaware of any complaints stemming from last year’s event.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.