Country’s longest-running Memorial Day parade promotes ‘inbound’ tourism

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2011

According to some local folk historians down river in Portsmouth O-H-I-O the idea of a national Memorial Day was first conceived there.

It is said that they wanted to remember and honor the sacrifices of area men that gave their lives during the Civil War. A remembrance ceremony reportedly was held in the late 1860s at the present day site of Tracy Park.

Unfortunately I have not been able to substantiate any of these claims but it still makes for a good story.

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There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. What we do know is that the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade can be documented as the oldest continuing Memorial Day Parade in the United States.

It has also been recognized as the official Memorial Day Parade for the State of Ohio. This annual event had its beginning in 1868, making this year the 143th Parade. According to the fine folks of the parade committee these facts have been authenticated by Congress and are recorded in Washington, D. C.

Originally called Decoration Day, today it is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.

Today it is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 30 in 2011). First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War it was extended after World War I to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

Memorial Day often marks the start of the summer vacation season with the Labor Day marking its end. Memorial Day has become an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not.

It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 auto race, held since 1911 on Memorial Day.

The Ironton Memorial Day parade In addition to being a feel good “homecoming” event for the region is another classic example of how “inbound tourism” can benefit the area. I’m talking about impacts both economically and aesthetically.

I define “inbound tourism” as a place that travelers visit and elect to spend time and most importantly money.

They may only be traveling from Pine Grove or Pedro but they are here spending money. Tourism statistics have shown that for every inbound dollar spent four additional dollars of revenue are generated in that same community. Now that is some economic impact.

Aesthetically many residents spend a considerable amount of time and money on their properties “curb appeal” as many real estate agents would phrase it. They refresh their yards, mulch the flower beds and add plenty of plant materials. There seems to be a frantic “we need to get spruced up” mentality that invades the community.

This community wide spirit and enthusiasm is wonderful and needs to be carried over for all seasons.

The Ironton in Bloom group has pitched in during the spring, summer and fall but we need an ongoing community beatification effort. An attractive place can be a profitable place.

Speaking of profit additionally activities like the Memorial Day Parade, the Gus Macker Basketball tournament, the Rally on the River and Ironton in Bloom’s July 10 Backyard Garden Tour are all inbound tourism revenue generators for the community.

Get out and support these and other activities. Become Ambassadors of Tourism and tell people that Ironton and Lawrence County are great places to visit.

The spending money here idea should take care of it itself after we get them here. These inbound travelers should be courted and welcomed with open arms!

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Got travel? E-mail Steve Call at the or dial 740.550.9540.