Solemn March Pays Tribute to the Fallen of Each War
Ferndale's 93rd annual Memorial Day parade focuses on veterans.
While many Memorial Day parades and celebrations include clowns, candy and plenty of barbecue smoke, the homage to heroes sometimes gets lost. For nearly a century, the city of Ferndale has kept its annual parade as a strict remembrance – filled with pride and dignity.
“We do have some floats," parade organizer Barbara Earl. "We’re not one of the biggest (parades) around. We are more of an old-time, hometown parade. We keep it strictly to honor the veterans. There’s no politics, frivolity, and we don’t pass out candy. We don’t allow vendors till after the flag is raised at noon. From 10 until noon, it’s strictly for honoring the veterans and recognizing their families.”
The parade begins at 10 a.m. with a service following at 11 a.m. The route starts at Livernois and Breckenridge, proceeding north on Livernois to Maplehurst and then to Woodward, west on Nine Mile and back to Livernois. The parade will comprise high school bands, local civic organizations and veterans organizations.
Though small and solemn, the parade has had its share of dignitaries. In 1952, Gen. Douglas MacArthur took part in the procession.
“He was in town to bestow a signal honor upon the city,” Ferndale Historical Museum Director Gerry Andrews said. “That was on May 16, 1952." (Click here to read the newspaper announcing MacArthur's visit.)
The museum displays a photo of MacArthur, riding in a convertible vehicle alongside Ferndale Mayor Bruce D. Garbutt, and a front page from the Ferndale Gazette.
In addition to housing memorabilia from America’s wars, the museum is the repository of “all things Ferndale,” including history of the city from its pioneer days through the 21st century. The museum opened in 1984 and is a 501(c)(3) organization run completely by volunteers.
“We will be open from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday for anyone to come by and visit,” Andrews said. “Our crowds are slimming because a lot of our veterans are passing. But we usually get a lot of supporters of veterans.”
Visitors' moods vary during the parade, Andrews said — sometimes they laugh and tell stories, but at other times, they become quite solemn, overcome with emotion as they look at the displays.
“We’ve always had good support,” he said. “The ceremony is right there (across the street), and we open our doors, and people wander in.”
The ceremony at Memorial Mall on Livernois, just south of Nine Mile, will include “reading the names of all the veterans from Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and Oak Park who have passed away in the past year,” Earl said.
“Then we have our speaker, Colonel Lionel Urquhart from the United States Marine Corps Reserve, and the Police Department Honor Guard will do our salute.”
The ceremony also will include the placing of a memorial wreath, which has been on display at the museum. The wreath will come back to the museum afterward.
The Ferndale Elks Lodge will open immediately folling the ceremony to provide refreshments.