Back in 1865, Henry C. Wells, a druggist in Waterloo, New York thought that honoring all American soldiers who died in a war was a fitting gesture. The following year, Waterloo threw the first Memorial Day celebration on May 5. The holiday caught on, and in 1966 Lyndon Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring Waterloo the “Birthplace of Memorial Day,” something the town takes quite seriously.
Instead of focusing only on Monday, the town includes the entire weekend for festivities. Located in between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes in the Finger Lakes region of New York, this would be a place to head to for a mix of the outdoors and history. Unlike Ithaca that wants you to stay away for Memorial Day festivities because of Cornell’s graduation that adds plenty of people to Ithaca’s streets, Waterloo wants you.
As a person who is a festival hound, Waterloo looks like the perfect way to kick-off the summer season of festival hopping. All the trimmings are there and most activities are free, or budget friendly. Events start this weekend and finish up on May 30, the official date of Memorial Day.
Activities are family friendly and include a breakfast buffet, 5-K run, car show, bike rally, a concert stage with multiple concerts and acts, an arts and crafts show, plus a Memorial Day Commemoration by Waterloo veterans. Of course there’s the parade that anyone can join in and fireworks. For the schedule, click here.
There are also special events for the younger crowd. At the Kids’ Korner there are games, crafts, goodie bags, animals, a clown and a juggler, depending upon the time you’re there.
One item in particular caught my eye. Bubblemania, a one-person performance by Casey Carle will be on the Layfette Stage. According to the info on the festival Website, Carle has been performing in India on a 16-day tour. I’m always curious to find out how performers from various countries end up performing where they do, whether they are from the U.S. and end up overseas or groups from other countries that end up here, particularly on a small town stage. If you see him, ask him.
If you head to Waterloo, also check out the National Memorial Day Museum, and the American Civil War Memorial and take a ride on the Finger Lakes Scenic Railway.