Johnny Rasmussen places American flags around Floral Hills Cemetery in Lynnwood on Friday in preparation for Memorial Day. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Johnny Rasmussen places American flags around Floral Hills Cemetery in Lynnwood on Friday in preparation for Memorial Day. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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No parades, but cemeteries open, flags up for Memorial Day

Recognizing the holiday is more complicated this year, but local groups are doing what they can.

LYNNWOOD — Many of the county’s cemeteries may still be dotted with American flags on Memorial Day, even if most celebrations have been canceled this year.

Gatherings have been curtailed because of the pandemic, but most cemeteries have stayed open for friends and family to honor those who have died while serving in the U.S. military.

At Floral Hills Cemetery in Lynnwood, an avenue of flags will be on display and visitors are welcome to place small flags at the graves of loved ones.

This year is Brenda McCoy’s first as general manager of Floral Hills. She worked at Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in Seattle for 12 years before starting in Lynnwood.

It feels strange not to have the normal events, she said.

“It’s sad for us,” she said. “We really struggled with what we can do, not what we can’t, because of the importance of the holiday.”

Usually Boy Scouts place small flags throughout the cemetery, but that is left to families this year. Those who can’t make it may call and ask staff to mark the headstones.

Bigger flags will also be set up, as they are every year. A bagpiper will play at 11 a.m. Monday.

American flags surround the Floral Hills Cemetery Azalea Fountain in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

American flags surround the Floral Hills Cemetery Azalea Fountain in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“It fills the whole neighborhood, you can hear it everywhere,” McCoy said. “It’s kind of one of those haunting but celebrating sounds, like Taps.”

Farther north at the Marysville Cemetery, flags will also be displayed but a ceremony has been canceled. People are still welcome to visit the grounds.

Each one of the 150 flags has been donated by a family of a veteran who has died. Usually there are more than 300, but that number is limited because of the pandemic.

Smaller flags also will be available by donation. Funds go to the local American Legion for upkeep of the flags.

Every other year that group has set up the large display. This year the grounds crew is scheduled to take over, said Beth Opel, the cemetery’s family service counselor.

People also may view flags on a property on the outskirts of Snohomish, at 13927 Three Lakes Road, where each year a resident dutifully places 210 flags in a symmetrical grid, reminiscent of national cemeteries. The flags, surrounding a 30-foot flagpole, are illuminated all night long.

An annual parade along Arlington’s Olympic Avenue has been canceled. That city’s American Legion usually hosts the event.

No flags will be displayed at the city’s cemetery either, spokesperson Sarah Lopez said in an email.

Edmonds College posted a video on YouTube Friday morning. Speakers include school President Amit Singh and Sen. Patty Murray, among others.

For seven years the college has had a Memorial Day celebration, Veterans Resource Center director Chris Szarek said in a news release.

“This tradition will continue online so that we can honor the fallen, comfort people who are grieving, and reflect on the sacrifices many have made to ensure our freedom,” he said.

Joanne Smith places flowers on her husband’s grave on Friday in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Joanne Smith places flowers on her husband’s grave on Friday in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Flags and white crosses will be placed at the Edmonds Cemetery. The Lions Club plans to display 180 flags around town.

Mill Creek will post a pre-recorded ceremony on its Facebook page ( at 9 a.m. Monday. The commemorative ceremony will start at the Mill Creek Veterans Monument at 15429 Bothell-Everett Highway, but no in-person participation will be allowed this year.

The city will also hold a “reverse parade,” from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday. Military memorabilia will be displayed for public viewing at Main Street and 153rd Street Southeast. The public is invited to drive by and view the display, while staying in their vehicles.

No ceremony is set at Evergreen Cemetery in Everett, but an eternal flame still flickers at the Veterans Memorial on the Snohomish County campus on Rockefeller Avenue. The flame was started in 1972 by a local chapter of American Gold Star Mothers.

It was removed during construction of the courthouse, but was ignited again last year.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192;; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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