Memorial Day celebrations in the area ranged from somber ceremonial events to eclectic and iconic expressions of American culture.
We should all be thankful to those willing to sacrifice their lives to serve our country. Because of them, we have the opportunity to live in freedom.
The roads were packed with bikers on Monday, many of whom converged upon the Florida National Cemetery’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony. A group of bikers sponsored by Tampa Bay Defenders met at the rest area near marker 277 on I-75 to make the trek.
The breathtaking views of Florida National Cemetery were marked dramatically by flags at each grave. Hundreds of volunteers placed over 100,000 flags in the cemetery. Next of kin to those buried or inurned at the cemetery donated the flags that draped over caskets or cremation urns of their loved ones. These 400 flags or “The Avenue of Flags” lined the roadways of the cemetery.
Congressman Daniel Webster, US House of Representatives, made the keynote address. Hernando High School band performed before and after the ceremony with a rendition of patriotic songs. The band was led by Joseph Harrin.
The Villages High School Choir performed patriotic songs during the ceremony. During the playing of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes by John Earl, Garey Wallace and the Posse from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department performed the rider less horse routine. South Sumter High School NNDCC lead the audience in the pledge of allegiance and Linda Burnette sang the National Anthem. Isaac Bobonis, bugler played Taps.
The Sumter Correctional Institute Color Guard presented the colors and rendered a gun salute. Ye Mystic Air Krewe provided a flyover.
In other events on this Memorial Day weekend, the evidence of that freedom was on full display with some unique celebrations. We saw Elvis belting out hits at Coney Island’s Weiner Fest and an alien encounter over at Marker 48.
Americana at its core, families enjoyed the festivities over at Coney Island in Brooksville, entertained by Elvis impersonator Kenneth Grube. Friends danced, children played and much hot dog consumption went on despite the warm weather.
John Reeves is a colorful character who lived in the area. He claimed to have befriended spacemen who took him to the moon on their spaceship.
He said the trip to the moon lasted 6 hours. He was able to describe the aliens in great detail as he says they visited him on multiple occasions. Reeves built a replica spaceship near where the Western Way plaza now sits. His tale of spacemen and travel to the moon brought Hernando County notoriety as the “UFO Capital of the World” during the 1960’s and 70’s. Bands played throughout the evening, and patrons were encouraged to come with their aluminum space caps. Ruby the pig even dressed up in alien garb for the occasion. A special place setting at the bar was reserved for a fallen soldier in commemoration of Memorial Day.
Memorial day is a wonderful way to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The ceremony at Florida National Cemetery was touching and seeing the fields of graves and flags really brought home the meaning of the holiday. Other celebrations were less somber, but still acknowledged the meaning of this weekend.