Wading through the Memorial Day sale ads and attempting to find a campsite in a sea of packed RVs and tents, you might be wondering how you can best reflect and honor the lives of service members during our nation’s more somber holiday. Flags flown at half-mast, silk poppy pins and flowers, gatherings in cemeteries–Memorial Day, once named Decoration Day is our annual day of remembrance. Here in Salt Lake City, we have our special Memorial Day traditions to honor those who have lost their lives serving in the United States military, and it’s also a day people often reflect and commemorate loved ones they’ve lost personally.
Originally Decoration Day, the name stemmed from people decorating the graves of fallen soldiers after the Civil War. The tradition of decorating graves carried throughout the years, even after the name change, while also extending our day of remembrance to lives lost in wars and battles following the Civil War. You’ll still find military cemeteries and memorials lined with flowers and American flags, parades honoring those who didn’t make it back from war, and poppies as the symbol of remembrance.
The national time to pay tribute to our past heroes is at exactly 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, but Salt Lake has events and activities going through the long weekend. From virtual events to live bagpipe music to memorial buildings, if you’re not sure what’s happening around Salt Lake during the holiday, we’ve compiled a Memorial roundup of how you can spend the long weekend while still remembering those who sacrificed their lives.
To fully reflect on the history and significance of Memorial Day, there are several cemeteries and dedication structures we’d recommend a visit. Bring flowers, small flags, or wander the grounds of these spots in and around the city.
Memorial Mortuaries & Cemeteries
From Saturday the 29th until Monday the 31st, the Memorial Mortuaries & Cemeteries will host an annual tribute with bagpipers roaming the grounds, flag ceremonies, and a Memorial Day address from Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson. You can find full details with each of their cemetery locations on the Facebook event page.
Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary
This year, the Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary is going virtual. They’ll stream a live Memorial program via Facebook at 10 a.m. where you can watch the flag-raising ceremony and council representative Cheri Jackson’s address directly after. Guests are still welcome to come to the park in person and lay flowers on service members’ graves or view the miniature American flags placed by volunteers in the preceding days.
Memory Grove Park
Might we suggest a self-guided tour of the lovely Memory Grove Park. Not only are the grounds covered in colorful blooms and full trees but the serene park next to the Utah State Capitol Building has several memorial structures scattered throughout the park.
Founded and made possible by Gold Star Mothers, each memorial has its own special tribute. Wandering the park, you’ll find dedications such as the Meditation Chapel, a chapel provided by the Beason family to honor their son and others who didn’t return back from World War II. Outside the chapel, you’ll find the names of those who were lost and never found during the war. You’ll also find surprises like a pagoda with marble sourced from the same quarry as the Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C.
Fort Douglas Museum
Although the ceremony will be a bit smaller than previous years, the Association of the United States Army will be laying a wreath for past soldiers and saying a few words at 10 a.m. to commemorate the lost soldiers. Bystanders are still welcome to partake in self-guided tours of the outside memorials and Cemetery of Veterans at Fort Douglas, located on the University of Utah campus. Some notable artifacts and things you’ll want to keep an eye out for when exploring the museum grounds: a piece of the World Trade Center from 9/11, tanks, cannons, and military helicopters.
Solely Virtual Events
If you’re not quite ready to make your debut into the world, that’s quite all right, you can still honor our military and service members from the safety of your own home with these virtual events.
National Memorial Day Parade
Pre-COVID, the National Memorial Day Parade was an in-person parade held in Washington D.C., but this year the parade will be completely virtual, airing on KSTU (an affiliate of FOX) at 12 p.m. on May 30th. Each float and performance honors lost service members. You can expect to see marching troops, musical performances, and speeches from national heroes.
USAA’s Virtual Poppies
From changing your phone’s wallpaper to dedicating a poppy on Snapchat, USAA brought us virtual poppies for Memorial Day. They’ll have an online Poppy Wall of Honor, visible through Snapchat, a poppy background for all the Zoom calls, and ways to help mourning military families.
Another way to reflect and honor lives during Memorial weekend is to get outside in nature and breathe the fresh mountain air while taking a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day. With crowds headed to southern Utah, head to Millcreek Canyon, Neff’s Canyon, Bell Canyon, and the Cottonwoods, while still remembering the history of the holiday in our great outdoors.