Memorial Day – normally a busy day in Aiken County – will be a bit quieter this year with several commemorative events being canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
Aiken residents are invited to join in moment of silence at their homes Saturday as part of a Memorial Day tribute.
The Aiken Memorial Day Parade Planning Committee has teamed up with Shellhouse Funeral Home to continue Aiken’s longstanding tradition of remembering the fallen around Memorial Day with a tribute of a horse-drawn caisson and riderless horse in downtown Aiken at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The tribute is not a parade, and residents are not encouraged to congregate; however, the committee hopes residents will join in a moment of silence wherever they may be at the time.
If residents choose to come downtown to see the tribute, the committee asks residents to take prudent measures by wearing masks and practice social distancing.
The parade committee explored other options because Aiken is known for honoring its veterans and, especially on Memorial Day, remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"We wanted to continue that longstanding tradition of remembrance in some way – but only if it could be done safely," said Leslie Hull-Ryde with the Aiken Memorial Day Parade Planning Committee. "We very much hope to be able to resume the traditional parade next year – but only if conditions allow."
The parade will be live streamed on the City of Aiken's Youtube channel.
Only a few events will be held on Memorial Day – including one in Aiken and one in North Augusta – but they will be private ceremonies due to the pandemic.
"I have spoken with our Veteran Service Organization Leadership concerning any Memorial Day programs at the Aiken County Veterans Memorial Park, The Horse Creek-Midland Valley Veterans Park and the Wade Hampton Veterans Park in North Augusta – all events have been cancelled due to the COVID 19 pandemic to ensure the health and safety of participants and observers," said Dwight Bradhum, director of Aiken County Veteran's Affairs.
A public ceremony will be held in Edgefield County at 10 a.m. Monday at the new Edgefield Veterans Memorial Park. The public will be asked to remain in or beside their vehicles in order to observe social distancing rules, and a sound system will announce the program.
"Unfortunately, with the coronavirus, we are still keeping in place our social distancing rules," said Jane Doolittle, Edgefield County Veterans Affairs service officer. "We have asked our attendees to park just across the street from our brand new park … they can park at the armory or the warehouse behind the park and stay close to their vehicles during the event."
Doolittle said the majority of the program will be a "surprise," but she did confirm the names of 78 veterans who have died in the line of duty dating back to World War I will have their names read during the ceremony. The Edgefield event will be held rain or shine.
"We would like for those people who – for whatever reason – are unable to attend, to that afternoon at 3 o'clock, pause maybe for a minute, and just take remember those that are currently fighting for our country and gave their lives for our freedoms," Doolittle said.
The new Edgefield park is located off Highway 25, directly across from the National Guard Armory.
Other local events planned for Memorial Day weekend include a Picnic Party at 2 p.m. Saturday at Rose Hill Estate, 221 Greenville St. N.W. There will be seating on the patio and in the gardens around the main house. There will be an outdoor bar and grill, music concerts on an outdoor screen and garden games including a corn hole competition. The cost to enter is $25 per team and all proceeds benefit local charities. For more information, visit rosehillinaiken.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, the Aiken Model A's car club will hold a Memorial Day Tour beginning at 1:45 p.m. for the residents of the Old Aiken grid. Members of the Aiken Model A's, driving flag-adorned cars, will meet at First Presbyterian at the aforementioned time and will conclude the parade at approximately 3:05 p.m. The group is not encouraging gatherings but is promoting social distancing.