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May 25, 2012 > Celebrating Memorial Day

Celebrating Memorial Day

By M. J. Laird

Memorial Day! Gateway to summer. Time to dust off the barbecue grill and invite the neighbors. Or pack the car to head for the beach. What's that? You want something inexpensive and closer to home? How about free?

Think Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. One day a year - and only one day a year - the turn-of-the-century working farm that is part of East Bay Regional Park District hosts an open house to invite the public to visit, free of charge. That's right. No entrance fee, no charge for parking.

Ardenwood offers an opportunity to travel back in time 100 years to experience a 205-acre working farm with animals, a blacksmith shop, train rides, and crops growing in the fields. At 11 a.m. on Memorial Day, visitors can help with morning chores and observe historic cooking; at noon, play games from long ago; at 2 p.m., stroll with a naturalist, and feed farm animals at 3 p.m. Visitors are welcome to picnic on the lawn.

The Patterson house, built in 1857 by pioneer George Washington Patterson who came to California from Indiana in 1849 as part of the Gold Rush and found fortune in agriculture, will also open to the public without charge. Built the same year that Patterson purchased his first land in the Tri-Cities after leasing for six years, the house also offers a glimpse into a way of life long gone. Renovated in 1889 with Queen Anne architectural styles including a tower, the Victorian home housed generations who lived on the land before it was turned over to the City of Fremont in 1978 and became an East Bay Regional Parks working farm in 1985.

"About 60 percent of the people who visit Ardenwood on Memorial Day say they have lived right here in the Tri-Cities and never come before," reports Naturalist Ira Bletz, park supervisor for 22 years. "This is a great way to introduce them to the farm.

"If we can get people to come on Memorial Day for the first time, I know they will come back because we offer so many programs."

Open House on Memorial Day is becoming a tradition. For the last five years, Ardenwood has opened free of charge, attracting between 1,500 to 1,800 people, about twice as many on any other weekend day.

Of the 100 acres of farmland, the park leases 70 acres to an organic farmer and plants 30 acres in oats, wheat, and corn for its educational programs and invites the public to help harvest. Oats are harvested in June; seven tons of hard red wheat, good for bread flour, in July; and corn for popping and feeding animals during the fall harvest. Bletz says the park offers a way for families to help their children connect with their food source, realizing that what they eat is grown rather than originating from grocery stores.

Sunol Regional Park will also be having a Memorial Day Open House, where special activities include Tarantula Talk at 11 a.m., Meet a Snake at 1 p.m., and Old-fashioned Ice Cream at 2 p.m.

For many people Memorial Day has become simply a holiday from work, a time for enjoyment with little connection to its roots--a day to remember lives lost in service to our country. First observed on May 30, 1868, Memorial Day began as women lay flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. By 1890, Northern states recognized the holiday, but Southern states made certain they marked Decoration Day on a different day than the Northern states.

Recognizing a need to connect Americans back to the origins of Memorial Day, in 2000 the White House called for a National Moment of Remembrance Program to encourage people across the nation at 3 p.m. local time to "commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedom."

The San Francisco Bay Area Flight 93 Memorial in Union City is the site of an "Observance and Remembrance Event" at 2 p.m. on Memorial Day. Names will be read of the 40 passengers and crew aboard the Boeing 757 on September 11, 2001, en route from Newark, N. J., to San Francisco. On board the plane were four terrorist hijackers, part of a concerted 911 terrorist attack on the U.S. that struck New York's World Trade Center and the U.S. Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The plane that abruptly changed course heading into Washington, D.C., ultimately crashed in a wooded area in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew heroically intervened, thwarting the terrorist plot.

The Flight 93 Memorial, located at Sugar Mill Landing Park on the backside of the Union Landing Shopping Center, begins with a Circle of Remembrance and concludes with a Circle of Hope. A flowing path of stones bears the names of each passenger and crewmember. Family members of the heroes on board Flight 93 are expected to participate in the ceremony.

Open House
Monday, May 28
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, Fremont
(510) 544-2797

Memorial Day Open House
Monday, May 28
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunol Regional Park
1895 Geary Road, Sunol
(510) 544-3249
Cost: $5 parking

Observance and Remembrance Event
Monday, May 28
2 p.m.
Flight 93 Memorial
Sugar Mill Landing Park
30700 Carr Way, Union City

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