Sparta Memorial Day observances canceled
The COVID-19 virus continues to take a toll on springtime traditions.
The latest to fall prey to the pandemic is Sparta’s annual Memorial Day parade and observance at Blyton Veterans Park.
The Sparta American Legion and Sparta VFW take turns staging the event and this year’s planning fell to the VFW.
VFW Commander Tracey Woodward said due to the COVID-19 outbreak it wasn’t possible to hold a parade, which takes months in advance to prepare. The observance at Blyton Park, which includes a speaker and honor guard, also fell by the wayside for this year.
That event was to include the unveiling of a new WWII War memorial, which was a project of the Sparta Rotary Club. Rotarian Tony Polkoski, who spearheaded the project, said a ceremony will be scheduled for a later date.
The VFW also holds a wreath laying to honor those servicemen and women who lost their lives at sea. While that will still take place, Woodward said it will be a low-key affair and organizers aren’t encouraging spectators so social distancing guidelines can be maintained.
The VFW holds an annual meat raffle following the Blyton Park program but that also has been canceled this year. It does plan to draw the winners of its cash raffle fundraiser on a live feed on its Facebook page at 6 p.m. Monday.
John Miller, Sparta American Legion commander, said the Legion still will be holding its chicken-que, whose proceeds go to support scholarships and youth programs. The event begins at 11 a.m., however, chicken dinners will be for takeout only.
In the Tomah area, programs have either been cancelled of modified. There will be no formal program at Oak Grove Cemetery. Even though there is no program, VFW Post 1382 will be doing a salute at 10 a.m. at the cemetery.
Tomah American Legion Post 201 has opted to cancel all its salutes at cemeteries and the wreath dropping over Lake Tomah. Also, there will be no ceremony at the Tomah Veterans Memorial on Superior Avenue.
The Wilton American Legion will still be holding its annual programs at Wilton area cemeteries but will not have its usual potluck following the ceremonies.
Beginning at 9:30 a.m., an honor guard will travel to six cemeteries starting at the Catholic Cemetery next to the Legion Hall. It will then go to Hillside Cemetery two blocks north before stopping at the Hwy. 131 bridge heading south out of the village to drop a wreath in the Kickapoo River.
From there, the honor guard will visit the Lutheran Cemetery, South Ridge Cemetery, Day Cemetery and Dorset Valley Cemetery in that order, before finishing with a short ceremony at the Wilton Veterans Memorial across from the Legion Hall.
At each cemetery, Legion member Darryl Raabe will read the roll call of veterans who are buried there, the honor guard will fire a three-shot volley to signify “duty, honor and sacrifice” and Taps will be sounded. Raabe said he will read over 250 names.
The public is welcomed to attend but social distancing will be encouraged.
The Kendall American Legion will be holding a similar observance. The Kendall Legion Military Honors Team will depart its Legion Hall at 9:30 a.m. en route to St. Luke’s Cemetery, Fountain Lutheran Cemetery and the Kendall Area Veterans Memorial.
Area residents are invited to observe the ceremonies, which will be “short, dignified and respectful,” said Legion Commander Doug Rogalla.
The Ontario American Legion will conduct salutes at Johnny Cake at 9 a.m., the Kickapoo River in Ontario at 9:15 a.m., the Old Ontario Cemetery at 9:30 a.m., Hillside Cemetery at 9:45 a.m. and the Ontario Veterans Memorial at 10 a.m. No program will follow.
Prevent Spread of COVID-19 over holiday
Memorial Day is coming up fast and on a typical year, there would be parades, grill outs, parties, and other celebrations. However, this year, COVID-19 is in our communities and is still spreading. To protect the health of residents and communities, the Monroe County Health Department (MCHD) highly recommends avoiding gatherings this Memorial Day weekend and minimizing travel, especially to areas considered “viral hotspots” within and beyond our state borders.
COVID-19 is mainly spread from person-to-person and between people who are within about six feet of one another. It spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
The virus also can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. When people are in close contact with one another or part of gatherings, COVID-19 can spread and infect multiple people quickly. Those infected can then spread COVID-19 to others at home, work, and other places they go.
For example, says MCHD Director Sharon Nelson, recently in Rochester, MN, a single person who had early symptoms of COVID-19 attended a house party of 30-50 people in mid-April. As a result, they spread the virus to 11 others at the party and those individuals then spread COVID- 19 to five others in the community for a total of 16 people infected.
This Memorial Day, MCHD strongly recommends that community members practice these following:
· Stay at home as much as possible, especially if you are sick, even if that illness is mild
· Minimize close contact (within 6 feet) with those outside of your household and congregating in groups of any size
· Limit travel, especially to areas with large numbers of COVID-19 cases
· Wear a fabric face covering if you are able
· Maintain a 6-foot distance with others whenever possible
· Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
· Avoid touching your face
Businesses are responsible for protecting the health and safety of their employees and customers. Businesses are strongly encouraged to follow safe practices and guidance from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Monroe County Business Toolkit.
Monroe County Health Department is ready to handle positive cases of COVID-19,” said Nelson. “We will continue to work with Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control, and our local partners to make sure our community remains safe and healthy.”