Wreath-laying set for Saturday

Published 8:36 pm Monday, December 5, 2016

More than 7,000 fresh wreaths will adorn gravesites at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery this Christmas season, and this Saturday’s annual event to place them is different from past years in one important aspect.

Due to construction at the Milners Road cemetery, all parking will be off-site this year, with several large vans and buses lined up to transport volunteers and visitors to the site.

“The area that used to be the parking is now the area for the construction,” said Horton Wreath Society President Betty Hand. The cemetery is building new columbariums as well as inserting in-ground burial containers in the previous parking area, so parking for the event will be off-site from now on, Hand said.

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This year, parking will be held at King’s Fork High and Middle schools, located at 351 and 350 Kings Fork Road, respectively. Hand said the high school lot will be filled first.

Beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, shuttles will run between the schools and the cemetery on a constant loop. There are eight 19-passenger vans, with wheelchair capabilities, as well as three 53-passenger coaches, Hand said. The use of the vehicles was donated by the city of Suffolk and Venture Tours, respectively, Hand said. Hand said people are welcome to drop off handicapped people at the cemetery’s maintenance entrance — golf carts will be available for use — but must then park their car at the school and ride the shuttle. The maintenance entrance is the first road north of the intersection of Milners Road and Lake Prince Drive.

The event will begin at 9 a.m. with a safety briefing for volunteers who want to help place the wreaths. At 9:30 a.m., wreaths will be ceremonially placed on the first row of graves at the cemetery. Following that, family members in attendance will be able to place wreaths on their loved ones’ graves, and then it will be opened up to the general public to place wreaths on other graves.

Immediately after the last wreath is placed, the ceremony will begin with guest speaker, Navy Rear Adm. Mike Crane.

Hand said the entire event should conclude around 1 p.m. The last buses will leave the cemetery about 1:15 p.m.

Volunteers available from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday can help to unload, fluff and re-load the wreaths at the Birdsong Peanuts warehouse located at 206 County St., Warehouse B.

Hand said fundraising to purchase the wreaths has gone well this year. The society met its goal two or three months ago and now is working on next year, she said.