Annual bridge march set for Memorial Day

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

NATCHEZ — As far back as 1867, Miss-Lou residents have celebrated Memorial Day by marching across the river from Vidalia to pay respects to fallen veterans at the Natchez City Cemetery, parade coordinator Eddie Coleman said.

And despite Mississippi River distractions, this year will be no different.

A community band comprised of young children to adults will leave at 8 a.m. Monday from the Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 23 located at 604 North Magnolia St. in Vidalia, Coleman said.

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“Before the Mississippi River bridge (was built), they used to march to the bank and a ferry boat used to pick them up in loads at a time,” Coleman said.

Coleman, a veteran himself, said the marching band, which has been practicing throughout the week, represents people from Vidalia, Natchez, Ferriday and Fayette. The instruments they will play were lent by Vidalia High School.

Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Museum Director Darrell White said the purpose of the GAR tradition is to remember those who fought and died in an effort to secure freedom for all.

“Traditionally within the African American community, (Memorial Day) held great significance, as freedom did not come with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but 89 years later at the end of the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” White said.

The procession will arrive at the Natchez National Cemetery, where participants will acknowledge the sacrifices made by Union Solders during the Civil War by decorating their gravesites with flags and flowers.

Since the Miss-Lou had a large group of United States Colored Troops, and because many of the initial burials at the Natoinal National Cemetery were members of the troops, this remembrance has taken place for generations within this community, White said.

An 11 a.m., remembrance program honoring all veterans is also set for Monday at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

“So, put on your walking shoes, or come out for the Memorial Day program to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for our great nation,” White said.