The Memorial Day Flowers Program, a private, nonprofit foundation, organized the donation and distribution of 240,000 roses at Arlington National Cemetery and 207 other Memorial Day events across the country in 27 states.
On the Sunday before Memorial Day at Arlington, 120 volunteers placed roses atop 64,000 headstones. On Memorial Day, an official said about 100 volunteers handed out 80,000 roses to visitors. Each visitor got two roses, one to place on the headstone of their veteran, and one to take home in his or her memory. The roses were donated by growers in Colombia and Ecuador. Delaware Valley Floral Group provided logistical support.
At the other 207 Memorial Day events, more than 189 retail florists participating in the project handed out 400 roses at each local cemetery or event involved in the project. Fifty of the florists were sponsored by Mayesh Wholesale Florist, 112 by Delaware Valley and 20 other wholesalers helped their retailers participate in the program. No supermarkets participated.
Ramiro Peñaherrera, a director of the new nonprofit foundation sponsoring the Memorial Day project, told The Produce News that plans were to expand the program again next year. This year, the project doubled the number of cemeteries served. “More than 70 percent of the retailers that participated last year are in the program again this year,” he added. Participating retailers receive 400 roses, a Memorial Day Flowers banner and 200 leaflets.
The program began last year when 50,000 donated roses were distributed by retailers at 95 cemeteries or ceremonies. Floral retailers and local groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars work together on Memorial Day ceremonies to encourage relatives and volunteers to lay roses on tombstones and to take roses home in memory of the veterans. Volunteers and family members, in video interview, said the event was “meaningful and emotional.”
Memorial Day began in 1868, when Gen. John A. Logan issued a proclamation that May 30 be called Decoration Day, to honor Civil War dead nationwide by decorating their graves with flowers and flags. The holiday was once the biggest floral holiday of the year, and its preferred name gradually changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day and it switched to the last Monday in May.