Free Concert and Flag Burning Ceremony

Every year there is a huge free concert at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse on Memorial Day and in the evening there is a traditional Memorial Day Watchfire Ceremony. You can read below at the Vietnam Vets link of the historical genesis of how the idea of a Watchfire came into being.

I will be attending. I have stopped by casually in the past but I’m making a point of it today.

They make a huge bonfire which burns long into the evening. People from all over the country send in flags for disposal. It is quite an event. As you might imagine this is well attended by patriots and lots of veterans. You don’t have to ask who is who. You can see it in the faces in the crowd. We just had a local boy killed in Afghanistan in the last few days so this carries a lot of meaning for a lot of people.

You can see a video of past years event below at the Vietnam Vets link.

Vietnam Vets

Fairgrounds Schedule and Directions

Most folks who read here can contact me easily so if you happen to be close by and want to attend it’d be great to see you.


3 thoughts on “Free Concert and Flag Burning Ceremony

  1. I had no idea what a big deal this is.

    The pile of stuff to burn was huge. Two, maybe three city lot sized and oval in shape. What I didn’t know and couldn’t see from my brief look from a distance a couple years back is on one side they make a large wall of wood panel to contain the stuff to be burned. They paint it white and people write all over it with the names of the fallen and put all kinds of messages on it and pictures and who knows what. I spent a good hour reading all of it. It’s like a free form Vietnam Memorial every year. Except there are names from all branches and from all our wars written by members of their family, descendants and by friends. You can read the heartfelt expression of thanks in many of the messages. There was a local choral group of twenty or so people who sing the patriotic tunes you’d expect and a military color guard for the ceremony before they light it off.

    And the flags. Again I had no idea. There were thousands of used flags being burned. The overall pile of stuff was easily 12 feet high.

    There were a few old guys, WWII vets, milling around telling stories and the like. We have the Tenth Mountain Division in Watertown not far from here. They are in Afghanistan big time and there were a few active duty people from there who have done tours in Afghanistan in attendance. I’m sure they were there to honor their fallen comrades. Lots and lots of families in attendance with a mix of young and old. You could easily see multi-generational familiy groupings all over the place. Many of them set up shop for the day with camp trailers facing the pyre, with kids tossing a football around and even some in a loosely organized game of tag football.

    The whole thing was a very moving experience and very ritualistic in it’s feel. Syracuse isn’t a big city by any means but I was struck by all the names on the wall, mostly local people I’d guess. Gives you an idea of how our wars affects the country in general. Every city doesn’t do this but I think it’s a good way for us to cope with the violence and loss of war. Anyone can participate, no questions asked and no names, in stacking the stuff on the pile to be burned and write on the wall etc so people get to share their loss. Quite remarkable.

  2. Here is a local news clip of the event.


    Sharon Blair wrote one of those messages, engraved on the rough wood because the board had been filled.

    “Be Safe Lcpl. Forest Blair,” she wrote. “You are brave. You are my hero. God keep you. Come home soon. Love, Mom.

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