It hasn't always been called Memorial Day but the city of Faribault, Minnesota has been observing Decoration Day and then Memorial Day since 1869.  That means next year will be the 150th and the Rice County Central Veterans Association is open to ideas about how to commemorate the special occasion.  In 1968 President Lyndon Johnson officially signed into law the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which Congress had passed establishing the last Monday in May as Memorial Day and making it a federal holiday. It went into effect in 1971.

For the past decade or so the Rice County Central Veterans Association have chosen local veterans to be representatives of all veterans, naming a Grand Marshal, Honorary Grand Marshal and Honored Combat Veteran.  This year the Grand Marshal is Vicki McDowell, the Honorary Grand Marshal is her husband Myles McDowell and the Honored Combat Veteran is Gerald LeMieux.

Vicki and Myles McDowell met while they were stationed in South Carolina in the U.S. Army.  Vicki is a Faribault native.  Myles enlisted in 1970 and served at 14 duty stations until leaving in 1999.  Vicki served for seven years.

Gerald LeMieux graduated from Faribault High School in 1967 and a couple weeks later was in naval boot camp in San Diego.  LeMieux enlisted and in December of that year was aboard the USS Mansfield in Vietnam, supporting the Marines during missions throughout the region, providing cover fire.

LeMieux returned to the United States in August 1968 and was aboard the same vessel when it went to North Vietnam for a six month deployment in 1969.  LeMieux was discharged in February of 1970 and recalls some of his fellow shipmates and soldiers were killed when the ship took a hit.  One sailor and four soldiers were killed.

Memorial Day Events in Faribault are:

  • 9:00 a.m. Flag raising and laying of Memorial Wreath Service at Veterans Memorial on north side of Rice County Courthouse.
  • Approximately 10:00 a.m. parade starts at Community Center then goes south down Central Avenue to 6th Street NW and west to Central Park.
  • Approximately 15 minutes after the parade the Memorial Day program is held in Central Park.
  • Noon lunch at the Faribault American Legion.

Other area observances include:

  • Shieldsville 1:00 p.m. Veterans Commemoration at the All-American Veterans Memorial.
  • Kenyon is having their 100th year Memorial Day observance with a parade starting 10:30 a.m. at the Super America and going east to the Kenyon Cemetery.  A program begins at approximately 11:00 a.m. with Vietnam Veteran Pete Hegseth of Kenyon the keynote speaker.
  • Cannon Falls Memorial Day Parade begins 10:30 a.m. by Merchants Bank and ends at the city cemetery on Highway 19 across from Cannon Falls High School.  Program begins 11:00 a.m. at the cemetery (701 State Street East)
  • Cannon City Township, Rice County 2:00 p.m. Memorial Day program at Cannon City Cemetery sponsored by the cemetery board.  Any individuals who are willing to share music and patriotic readings are encouraged to do so.
  • Northfield 9:00 a.m. Tribute to Veterans at Memorial Park.  Kathleen Doran-Norton will lead those in attendance in song, followed by guest speakers, a Memorial Day address and the placing of wreaths.

KDHL Radio 920 AM will be broadcasting the Memorial Day program from Central Park just before it begins.  If interested, friends or relatives outside the broadcast range of the Mighty 920 can download the FREE KDHL app and listen from anywhere in the world.

Central Park Bandshell Faribault with shadow of flag. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld