Despite having its origins in the years after the Civil War, Memorial Day has been an official federal holiday since 1971. But the day has nonetheless developed a rich tradition, particularly across Northwest Florida, where active-duty military personnel, veterans and military families comprise a significant percentage of the population.
Local observances of the holiday, which honors those who gave their lives in military service to the country, pay homage to that somber reality. But also, those local observances include some recognition of the three-day weekend as the unofficial start of the summer.
Here are some of the Memorial Day activities, patriotic or just plain fun — or a mixture of the two — planned for this area in the coming days:
SATURDAY, MAY 25
NFSO Memorial Day Concert
5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Music starts at 6:30 p.m.)
The Amphitheater at Mattie Kelly Arts Center
Northwest Florida State College
100 College Blvd., Niceville
In honor of America's veterans and first responders, the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and Northwest Florida State College will present a concert of American music for the entire family beginning at 6:30 p.m. Come at 5 p.m. for dinner featuring local food trucks and cuisine, or pack a picnic and enjoy an evening under the stars.
Memorial Day Weekend Celebration & Fireworks
Saturday, May 25-Monday, May 27
Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
9300 Baytowne Wharf Blvd., Miramar Beach
The Memorial Day Celebration at The Village of Baytowne Wharf begins Saturday with live music from the Forrest Williams Band from 7-9 p.m. On Sunday, there will be kids' activities from 6-9 p.m. and live music from Coconut Radio from 7-9 p.m. On Monday, Sandestin Veterans will present a Memorial Day program at 5 p.m. A fireworks show will be at 9:15 p.m.
For more information, go online to http://www.baytownewharf.com.
Memorial Day Celebration at HarborWalk Village
Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26
7:30 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.
10 Harbor Blvd., Destin
Celebrate Memorial Day at HarborWalk Village with live music from Heritage on Saturday. Sunday will feature live music from Andy Velo with fireworks at 9 p.m., followed by fire-spinning from Just Add Fire!
SUNDAY, MAY 26
Memorial Day Celebration & Fireworks on Okaloosa Island
The Boardwalk, 1450 Miracle Strip Parkway
Fort Walton Beach
A special Memorial Day weekend fireworks show is part of a series of fireworks shows held throughout the summer on Okaloosa Island. For more information, go online to www.theboardwalkoi.com/fireworks.
Sinfonia Goes Pops!
Alys Beach Amphitheatre
Somerset Street off Walton County Road 30A
Enjoy the orchestral sounds of Sinfonia Gulf Coast under the palm trees in the Alys Beach Amphitheatre. Free and open to the public. Fireworks will follow the concert. Attendees should bring blankets and low-back chairs. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
MONDAY, MAY 27
Memorial Day Ceremony at Beal Memorial Cemetery
Beal Memorial Cemetery
316 Beal Parkway N.W., Fort Walton Beach
The Veterans Tribute Tower Committee will host the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Beal Memorial Cemetery. The guest speaker will be Army Col. Patrick Colloton, commander of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). During the traditional salute to veterans and fallen comrades, guests and organizations are invited to place a fresh flower in the Community Wreath at the base of the flagpole, and render appropriate honors.
In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be at American Legion Post 235, 105 Hollywood Blvd.
For more information, contact Tom Rice at 850-302-0266 or email@example.com.
Walton County Memorial Day Service
Gum Creek Cemetery
State Road 83 near Glendale
Walton County's 23nd Annual Memorial Day Service will be at Gum Creek Cemetery north of DeFuniak Springs at 8 a.m.
Gum Creek Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Walton County, marks the final resting place of veterans from American’s wars all the way back to the early 19th century, with 12 known Civil War veterans and one confirmed Seminole War veteran.
For morel information, contact Tom Baker at 850-892-8185.
Santa Rosa County Memorial Day Ceremony
5191 Willing St., Milton
Santa Rosa County will host a Memorial Day celebration at 10 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Plaza at 5191 Willing St. in Milton.
Wreaths will be laid in honor of the Fleet Reserve Association Branch 210, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4833, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 125, American Legion Post 78, Combat Veterans, Daughters of the American Revolution, Purple Heart Association, Sons of the American Revolution and the AmVets Post 1292.
A keynote speech will be delivered by Navy Capt. Paul Bowdich, commander of Naval Air Station Whiting Field, and proclamations will be presented by Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay and Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole.
For more information, call 850-860-2427.
Memorial Day Ceremony at Doolittle Park
465 Valparaiso Parkway, Valparaiso
The Niceville-Valparaiso Twin Cities Veterans Council will sponsor a Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. at Doolittle Park in Valparaiso.
The Niceville High School Junior ROTC will present the colors and Yolanda Stallworth will sing the national anthem. The keynote speaker will be retired Air Force Col. Jay Denney.
Twnety-six organizations will present memorial wreaths during the ceremony.
Seating is limited, so attendees are urged to bring lawn chairs.
In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be at AMVETS Post 78 at the end of Valastics Boulevard in Valparaiso.
Gulf Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
1466 S. County Road 393, Santa Rosa Beach
Historic Gulf Cemetery will host its annual Memorial Day Ceremony at 10 a.m.
The 132 veterans interred in the cemetery will be honored in a service that will include a keynote speech by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Warner, who served as an F-15 fighter pilot. The Cloud 9 Orchestra will play patriotic music during the ceremony, and there will be a flyover of military aircraft during the national anthem.
Also at the ceremony, the Walton County Sheriff’s honor guard will fire a volley salute to the fallen. The ceremony will conclude with a “missing man” flyover formation performed with World War II-era aircraft from the Destin Warbirds.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, children will be provided with American flags to place on each veteran's grave.
For more information, visit gulfcemetery.org.
Navarre Park Memorial Day Ceremony
8513 Navarre Parkway, Navarre
A Memorial Day ceremony will be presented by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts in Navarre Park, 8513 Navarre Parkway, at 11 a.m. Participants include local Scout Troops 106 and 401 as well as the Navy Junior ROTC cadets from Navarre High School. Santa Rosa County Commissioner Dave Piech will present the Memorial Day proclamation.
For more information, contact Joseph Louder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City of Destin Memorial Day Celebration
Destin Memorial Cemetery
101 Sthalman Ave.
The public is invited to attend a Memorial Day Ceremony presented by the American Legion at 11 a.m. at the Destin Memorial Cemetery at 101 Stahlman Ave.
For more information, call the Destin Community Center at 850-654-5184.