Jim McGinley remembers how the World War II soldiers stepped when he first marched in the Lawrenceville Memorial Day Parade with his dad 25 years ago.
“They were marching like they just came back in the ’40s,” he said.
Now, McGinley is one of the volunteers that makes the annual parade — in its 109th year — happen.
It’s one of three events in Lawrenceville, Oakland and the Strip District on Monday honoring those who have died while serving in the military. We’ve rounded up the need-to-know details for you, so you can plan your day off.
A parade in Lawrenceville
Plan to stick around after the Lawrenceville parade for a ceremony in Allegheny Cemetery at the Soldiers Memorial, featuring tributes, speakers, music, a wreath laying, gun salute and dove release.
The parade itself starts at 10 a.m. and takes Butler Street from 40th Street to the Allegheny Cemetery. If you’re looking for a place to watch, McGinley said it’s usually packed near the entrance of the cemetery, so he suggests standing between 40th and 48th streets … and getting there by 9:30 a.m.
More than 60 groups — including military color guard, veterans’ groups, marching bands, the Pittsburgh Firefighters Memorial Pipe Band, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts — are participating.
“Every year we’re tinkering with it and adding something new,” McGinley said.
This year? More marchers, a stilt walker and a group of D-Day re-enactors in WWII uniforms, he said. Each war from WWII to now will be represented as a “reminder of what Memorial Day is all about.”
More than 60 groups — from military color guard to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts — are participating in the 109th parade. After, head to a ceremony in the Allegheny Cemetery at the Soldiers Memorial.
Where: Butler Street (Lawrenceville)
When: May 29, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Honor soldiers and sailors
There are two days a year that show off the true meaning of the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial: Memorial Day and Veterans Day, said John McCabe, president and CEO of the nonprofit that runs the Oakland hall and museum.
Head to a free event at Soldiers & Sailors — founded for Allegheny County Civil War veterans, but now honoring all U.S. veterans from all conflicts — from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The day starts with an indoor ceremony remembering fallen service members and featuring those from Pennsylvania who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. A photo slideshow will play during the ceremony and throughout the event. Attendees get free admission to the museum and activities on the lawn, rain or shine.
See a performance from the hall and museum’s Civil War drum and fife re-enactment corps for the 6th Regiment United States Colored Troops followed by military drills led by a museum staffer from about 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. The musical ensemble, Brass Roots, will perform a patriotic concert around 3 p.m.
Since Memorial Day is about honoring and remembering veterans — but is also a day off for most people — McCabe said the events try to reflect that. There will be kids’ activities, food to buy and prizes. Radio station 94.5 3WS is bringing its 2017 Sports Challenge (an inflatable game testing your athletic skill) to the lawn lawn from about noon to 2 p.m., McCabe said.
This event starts with a ceremony in the auditorium to honor Pennsylvania service members who died in the war on terror. After the ceremony: Free admission to the museum, kids' activities, food and prizes, and see patriotic musical performances.
Where: Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum at 4141 Fifth Ave. (Oakland)
When: May 29, 2017 at 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Learn to fold Old Glory
The Memorial Day flag folding ceremony at the Senator John Heinz History Center isn’t long — about 30 minutes — but it’s moving, spokesman Brady Smith said.
The ceremony starts with a folded, 36-foot American flag, and visitors unfurl it. While they are doing that, a staffer explains the history of the flag and Memorial Day. Once it’s unfolded, about 50 people can hold the edges during the National Anthem and a moment of silence. Then, they learn to fold the flag back into its triangle.
The History Center regularly has flag folding ceremonies for patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Smith said. Veterans often come to the center in their military uniforms to join in with other visitors.
“It’s a really emotional experience,” he said.
The ceremony in the Grand Hall is included with admission ($16 for adults). After, Smith recommended seeing the “Pittsburgh: A tradition of innovation” exhibit to learn about the impact of wars like the Civil War and World War II on the area.
Local veterans and museum visitors will come together to unfurl a 36-foot American flag, hear the National Anthem and pause for a moment of silence before ceremoniously folding the flag.
Where: Heinz History Center at 1212 Smallman Street (Strip District)
When: May 29, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.