SHARPSBURG, Md. — For Connie Knight, the parade was, in part, a march down memory lane.
As she sat with her sisters among spirited throngs packing Main Street in Sharpsburg Saturday afternoon, Knight recalled marching in the Memorial Day parade with her elementary school class.
But more than that, Knight said, the event serves as a reminder.
“I think it’s very important that we remember our veterans and our soldiers and celebrate this day,” said Knight, 69, of Sharpsburg. “Pay honor.”
A memorial ceremony kicked off the 145th Memorial Day Commemoration during late morning. The Wildcat Regiment Band played as participants placed wreaths at Town Square in honor of deceased veterans of various wars.
Parade announcer Roger Moore said nearly 100 units and a couple thousand people enlivened the street during the parade.
Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent Susan Trail served as grand marshal. Trail, who has been superintendent for less than a year, said Saturday was her first time attending the parade and it was “wonderful.”
Trail said the town’s tradition of commemorating Memorial Day is one of the earliest in the United States.
“It dates back to the dedication of Antietam National Cemetery on Sept. 17, 1867, which was the fifth anniversary of that battle,” Trail said.
At the time, it was referred to as Decoration Day, Trail said, as people decorated the graves of the war dead with flowers.
Trail said the town’s historical significance and proximity to Antietam National Battlefield likely is the reason for the ongoing vitality of its Memorial Day celebrations.
“(Sharpsburg) has such a close association to the battle that occurred (at Antietam) and to the creation of the National Cemetery. Having lived through a battle and a war, I think this is something that has stayed close to the community,” she said.
John Videtti, 42, of Sharpsburg, said the parade is a tradition for his family. His daughter Bella, 12, enjoys seeing her friends participate. Pip, 10, said the Shriner go-karts are her favorite, while Luca, 6, was smitten with the mudboggers.
“The parade seems to get bigger and better every year. We love it,” John Videtti said.
Ken and Sandy Lord of Keedysville watched the parade with their daughter, Katie, 2, as well as extended family from Walkersville, Md., and Springfield, Va. Their sons, Ryan, 7, and Colin, 5, marched with their baseball team.
Ken’s mother, Diane Lord, said she saw the event as “a learning opportunity.”
“It’s very patriotic. I’m trying to teach the kids little things like to stand when the flag goes by,” she said.
She also pointed out the symbol for Gold Star Mothers, indicating mothers who have lost sons or daughters in a war.
Ted Brennan, 43, of Keedysville, is a re-enactor with the 14th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. Brennan said there is “no better place to celebrate Memorial Day than remembering those who gave their lives.”
“You know, those guys, they came here and sacrificed their lives, all their tomorrows for all of our todays. There’s no way to describe that, our gratitude for that,” Brennan said. “I think having the people here showing that support ... is a good way to show those troops that we do appreciate them.”