At Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Memorial Day is more than just hotdogs and hamburgers.
“Over the years, as we had more and more conflicts, the building became a symbol representative of a memorial for all veterans of all branches of service. The only one like it of its kind in the nation,” said Soldiers and Sailors President and CEO John McCabe.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 995,000 veterans living in Pennsylvania.
The Pittsburgh landmark kicks of its Memorial Day celebration Monday at 10 a.m. with a ceremony honoring the Pennsylvanians who lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
McCabe said close to 300 names will be called, along with their hometowns.
“It’s how we start the day because that’s how Memorial Days began many, many years ago,” he said, “but then we turn it into a festive celebration.”
A prize will be given for the most patriotic appearance and a “patrioteer challenge” led by museum curator and Civil War reenactor Captain Kraus (it’s essentially a giant game of Simon Says).
Entertainment will be provided by the 6th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops Drum Corps, along with a patriotic concert by “The Brass Roots” to bring the day to a close.
And even Soldiers and Sailors knows that no Memorial Day celebration is complete without food. McCabe said the cornbread eating contest is back by popular demand this year and a food tent will be set up for visitors to get their fill.
Children’s entertainment includes egg races, sack races and a shoe mix up race, along with an inflatable bounce house and obstacle course.
McCabe said he wants the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Day celebration to become a Pittsburgh tradition, much like the city’s 4th of July fireworks show, which has been named one of the best in the nation.
“What we’ve strived to do, and I think we’re making great progress in doing that, is having this event every Memorial Day, on Memorial Day so it becomes an annual event for our community,” he said.
Museum tours will also be available throughout the day.
McCabe said he expects as many as 2,000 people to attend this year’s celebration.