Celebrate Commemorate Memorial Day


February 2, 2021

The Celebrate Commemorate event for 2021, has once again been postponed until May 2022.

This decision did not come lightly and was thoroughly vetted by the multiple public agencies whose permissions were required.

The May 30th Commemorative Memorial Day ceremonies will be allowed, with the appropriate COVID regulations in place at that time.

Given the uncertainty surrounding these types of large events for health reasons, it would be impossible to coordinate with all parties involved in a timely manner if this decision were to be delayed. 

The committee has been working for several months to organize and reimagine the 2021 event.  This group of volunteers deserves a heartfelt thank you for their efforts, not only now but for the past 20 years of family friendly events provided for the community.  

Every effort will be made to hold the solemn Commemoration on May 30th as has been the case for the past 153 years consecutively in Waterloo, NY the Birthplace of Memorial Day.  

The Celebrate Commemorate committee is chaired by:
Jane Shaffer, Sessler Companies 315-539-3353
and Sarah Smolinski , 315) 745-9928‬

This community event requires many volunteers.  If you would like to help out and volunteer some time, please fill out the form below & someone will contact you directly.  
In the comments area, please indicate the days you are available and your area(s)  of interest?  Entertainment, History Tours, Concessions, Merchandising, National Memorial Day museum, Car show, Parades, Event set up and teardown. 

Celebrate Commemorate Volunteer Form





On a spring day in 1865, Waterloo, NY druggist Henry C. Welles watched as a lone widow walked to the cemetery to place flowers on the grave of her deceased Civil War soldier husband.  How soon they forget, Welles thought, resolving to do something to make sure that those who gave their lives in defense of their country would not be forgotten. Working with Gen. John B. Murray, Welles planned the first Memorial Day in Waterloo in 1866, and for 150 consecutive years, Waterloo’s citizens have remembered. With parades, prayers and ceremonies.

On May 26, 1966, that consistency inspired President Lyndon Johnson to sign a Presidential Proclamation recognizing Waterloo as the official Birthplace of Memorial Day.

 “I am humbled by the patriotism in this little Upstate village of about 5000 people, my hometown” said Jane Shaffer. “As co-chair of Celebrate Commemorate for the past 18 years, it has been my privilege to work with the committee of nearly 40 volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to honoring our veterans.”

The 21st annual Celebrate Commemorate observance during the weekend of May 23-24 & 30th, will bring thousands of people “home” to Waterloo to participate events to delight every family member. They include musical performances, Art and Craft shows, children’s games, a youth essay contest, and a big parade celebrating our freedom at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 24th.  The parade will feature wounded warriors from the VA Hospital in Canandaigua, escorted by scores of Patriot Guard and American Legion motorcycle riders, bands, floats, and military groups including National Guard and active military  troops.

In Lafayette Park there will be food available.  Chicken BBQ’s will be available on Saturday & Sunday as well as an assortment of food booths with a variety of meals and treats for everyone!

During Celebrate Commemorate weekend, Waterloo will again host Civil War reenactors.  Groups will gather from throughout the Eastern United States, including infantry, signal crops, artillery, and fraternal organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic and it’s Allied Orders; Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 (DUVCW), Auxiliary to the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (ASUVCW), including two Past Presidents of the DUVCW.  The Confederate counterparts have been invited and will share in our commemoration.

There will be encampments with reenactors presenting Living Histories of Civil War camp life including many events such as camp cooking, children’s crafts, military training and drills, a Grand Review with President Lincoln, presentations by Civil War surgeons, morticians, sutlers, photographers, artillery with cannon fire, commands by Harriet Tubman and support by the Christian Commission and the Sanitary Commission.  Frederick Douglass will share his address as given at Arlington Cemetery on Decoration Day.

Special “dignitaries” will include President Lincoln portrayed by Fritz Kline, Harriet Tubman (Carolyn Evans), Frederick Douglass (Michael E. Crutcher Sr.),  Dr. Mary Walker and spy Belle Boyd ( Marilyn Dirk),  Northern sympathizer Elizabeth Van Lew (Nancy Karasinski),  mortician (Don Williams), Rev. Scott ( Marty Hillman).

During the Civil War, the Village of Waterloo was not only committed to supporting the Union efforts, but also was well positioned in the Underground Railroad with several houses being used as stations for runaway slaves.   The village also was the Birthplace of the Women’s Rights movement.  The M’Clintock House was the sight of the planning session for the First Women’s Rights Convention kicking off the largest social movement in American history. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and several others drafted a document they called the Declaration of Sentiments, ratified on the second day of the convention, which proclaimed that “all men and women are created equal” and women must have the right to vote. Located at 14 East Williams Street, this National Park Service site will be offering interpretive programs and costumed interpretation throughout the day.

On May 30, which Waterloo always observes as Memorial Day in keeping with Logan’s Orders, children will decorate graves of veterans, there will be prayer services in the village cemeteries, the village’s VFW and American Legion will conduct a military parade at 4 pm. Ceremonies in Lafayette Park will feature government officials and special dignitaries.

Those attending the festivities in Lafayette Park are reminded that while everyone is invited….

Pets are not welcome!

and the event is alcohol free.

Special thanks to:


MDay logo for wori

The National Park Service at Women’s Rights National Historical Park is pleased to be a sponsor of Waterloo’s Celebrate Commemorate Memorial Day 2018 event building relationships with the communities we serve. We hope to see you at the National Park Service’s Waterloo site, the M’Clintock House, at 14 East Williams Street.

Waterloo Remembers

May 23-24 2020

154th Consecutive
Memorial Day Observance
May 30, 2020

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