Celebrating Memorial Day

COPPER HARBOR – Throughout the country and the Copper Country people will be taking the opportunity to honor veterans Monday. At Fort Wilkins State Park, the annual Memorial Day celebration gives locals and visitors a chance to do just that.

The Memorial Day ceremony, beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, will honor veterans with speeches, songs and performances. This year’s speaker will be James R. Huozinen, a retired marine colonel. The Keweenaw Detachment No. 1016 of the U.S. Marine Corps League will take part in the presentation of the colors. Local children from the Copper Harbor School will even take part in the event.

“The big feature is always that the Copper Harbor school children do a program featuring patriotic songs and different tributes to soldiers lost during different wars,” Robert Strittmatter, Fort Wilkins park supervisor, said.

During last year’s celebration, the children sang songs such as “The Star Spangled Banner” and presented flowers in honor of soldiers killed in each of America’s wars and military conflicts. At the close of the program there will be refreshments sponsored by the Fort Wilkins Natural History Association.

Fort Wilkins’ history makes it a fitting place to hold such an event. Opened in 1844, the fort housed soldiers meant to keep the peace in the then new mining area. However, there were never any real issues so the soldiers were not needed and after three years the fort was abandoned, according to Strittmatter.

The fort remained unused for some time before becoming an official state park in 1923. The lack of use, along with the geography of the area, meant that the fort is remarkably well reserved, Strittmatter said.

“Most structures are original because the wilderness and remoteness of the area,” he said.

The park contains several of the original structures. The interior exhibits and museum pieces opened earlier in May, so people can take time to tour the historic fort as well. Later in the season, role players will be visible in the fort daily. The role players will begin appearing June 15 and continue through August 15.

“It’s a great example and great exhibit piece demonstrating early ways of life and soldier life in the 1800s,” Strittmatter said.

The campground and exhibits will be open during Monday’s celebration.

There will be many similar events commemorating Memorial Day throughout the Copper Country Monday. The forecast as of Friday predicts temperatures in the low 70s and a slight chance of rain showers.