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A Different Kind of Memorial Day Weekend

This year's holiday won't be ordinary, but it might allow people to remember what the day off is really about


Normally, Memorial Day weekend would be a guaranteed celebration—an extra day tacked on to the weekend, right as summer begins to kick off. If this was like other years, Central Oregon would be busy playing party host to visitors and locals alike. But in 2020, things will look and feel different.

There will be no Memorial Day concerts. No street fairs. No parades, nor big gatherings of veterans. No massive barbecues.

This weekend, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and a bipartisan group of 26 mayors in the state are encouraging Oregonians to stick around their home bases and safely promote local business if possible.

On Wednesday, Bend City Manager Eric King extended the city's state of emergency through Phase Two of the governor's reopening plan, and extended the order discouraging tourist travel in the area at least until Phase Two begins. It's still not clear when Phase Two, allowing more businesses to open, and for greater numbers of people to gather, would happen, but King said it could begin as early as June 5.

This year's Memorial Day might help put the holiday in perspective. - AARON BURDEN/UNSPLASH
  • Aaron Burden/Unsplash
  • This year's Memorial Day might help put the holiday in perspective.

“Extending the state of emergency and the travel order helps us support the health and safety of our community as we begin the phased process of reopening,” said King in a release. 

"Together we are asking all Oregonians to please keep it local this Memorial Day. Be good neighbors this weekend—stay local and stay safe," said Gov. Brown in a press release. "If you love the coast, stay home for now and plan your trip in the summer. If you love the Columbia Gorge, keep it local this weekend a visit later on. If you love Central Oregon, it'll still be there in a few weeks."

With certain counties across the state going through Phase One reopenings, a wave of outside visitors exploring for the weekend could cause more harm than good. Communities don't want to spark another wave and have to enter another shutdown.

For those feeling uncertain about making big plans for the weekend, it's probably best to trust your gut and hang close to home. The fewer people who venture into outside areas the better. There's no shame it keeping it a low-key weekend, especially if that means keeping others safe. 
"This Memorial Day weekend, a backyard barbecue or a small family gathering is the best way to stay healthy as we build a safe and strong Oregon. If you want to get outdoors, find a place to hike or bike or paddle close to home. And, please, wear a face covering when you are around others," added Brown.

While some might think this weekend's fun has been spoiled by COVID-19,  it's important to remember the real purpose of this holiday: To honor veterans. Even though there won't be large gatherings for people to pay tribute to patriots together, time alone with family and the current state of our country might add some perspective into the lengths that veterans have gone to to keep us safe.

On May 21, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden gave a speech to share his thoughts on this year's Memorial Day.

"It shouldn't take away from our determination to honor those who paid the ultimate price in service to their nation. It shouldn't cause us to forget that Memorial Day can be hard on the parents, spouses, children and friends that our fallen heroes left behind," said Wyden.

"That's why this year on Memorial Day, it's more important than ever to reach out and connect with those folks who are remembering loved ones they've lost in the line of duty. To give them a call and ask how they're holding up, because the last few months in particular have been tough on everybody. And their sacrifice shouldn't be forgotten."

You can watch Wyden's speech in full below.

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...

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