Memorial Day 2020 events in Chicago area go virtual, including annual WOOGMS Parade

Monday, May 25, 2020
Memorial Day events go virtual due to COVID-19 crisis
The coronavirus crisis forced many Memorial Day ceremonies and parades to go virtual this year.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- Memorial Day is normally filled with ceremonies and parades honoring our fallen veterans, but the coronavirus crisis has forced many ceremonies and parades to go virtual.

All over the region, the COVID-19 pandemic sent the solemn remembrances online, with some choosing to livestream their ceremonies and others producing previously recorded ones. Present in all was a desire to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, regardless of current circumstances.

Eight names were added to Orland Park's Veterans Memorial Monday, with only a handful of relatives on hand to witness it.

"Over time, Memorial Day has become the unofficial start of summer," Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said. "A day of barbecues and parties and a day off. That is because those things represent a way of life many of us fought to protect."

Memorial Day is normally filled with ceremonies and parades, honoring our fallen veterans, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many ceremonies and parades to go virtual.

While the parade in Arlington Heights was canceled this year, some people came out to Memorial Park to pay their respects.

The area would usually be packed with people and there would be a special ceremony, but restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have not stopped people from honoring veterans.

A small group of cars drove past Memorial Park paying their respects in front of the 58 wreaths set up for the 58 fallen heroes from Arlington Heights.

Cindy Kuffel's father was a Marine in World War II. She visited the brick she had placed in the park in his honor.

"I didn't know much about what he did in the Marines, but I was always proud of him," she said.

A year after its centennial, the Arlington Heights Memorial Day Parade, which is one of the largest in the suburbs, did not happen Monday due to the pandemic.

The annual march down village streets usually attracts over 100 marching units, 3,000 participants and about 10,000 spectators.

"People understand that the parade is a wonderful way to honor our veterans and gather our community but the ceremony is the main purpose of Memorial Day," said Greg Padovani, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights.

The ceremony is still happening, only it's virtual, recorded on video for those who want to watch on YouTube to pay tribute to service men and women.

"One hundred and fifty years ago, in the Civil War, Arlington Heights residents have answered the call and paid the ultimate price and so this is just a great way for our residents to continue to remember," said Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes.

WATCH: WOOGMS holds virtual parade

The WOOGMS Parade where "nobody watches and everybody marches" had to reverse its format this year.

And then there is WOOGMS, the Wellington-Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society. The WOOGMS Parade through the Lakeview neigbhorhood has been a Memorial Day tradition in Chicago for over half a century.

But the WOOGMS Parade where "nobody watches and everybody marches" had to reverse its format Monday. A Facebook Live stream included cameos from Governor JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Jesse White and the Chicago Police Department, while also including a look back at WOOGMS throughout the years.

"I'm glad we did it, versus not doing it at all. The process was really fun," WOOGMS parade organizer Nancy Zinder said. "It was a blast trying to get my 5-year-old son to say a few words with the Pledge of Alliegiance."

"We weren't going to let the virus get in the way of a good parade," Woogms parade organizer Mike Lofrano said. "We were able to come together virtually. We're doing our part to stay safe, but we also wanted that spirit of community to continue."

WOOGMS' virtual celebration ended with an expressed desire that by Labor Day, they may be marching together once again.


Elmhurst observed Memorial Day with a convoy instead of the usual parade. A group of 15 to 20 police, fire and military vehicles drove a 16-mile route in front of homes. Residents were asked to decorate their front yards with flags and ribbons.

Many other suburbs, including Wilmette, held virtual events to honor those who died while serving in the United States military.

Aurora hosted a virtual Memorial Day ceremony featuring families, legislators and musical performances that started at 10 a.m. and the city's Facebook page.

Lincolnwood and the American Legion Post 1226 held its first virtual Memorial Day commemoration at 10:30 a.m.

The VFW Post in Western Springs hosted a car parade for its two remaining World War II veterans. That began at 11 a.m. at Veterans' Memorial Park and was livestreamed at

The Archdiocese of Chicago hosted an online Memorial Day Mass in several different languages, a change from field Masses usually held at cemeteries each year to commemorate veterans. Catholic Cemeteries manages 45 cemeteries in Cook and Lake Counties for the Archdiocese. Officials say grounds will be open until 7 p.m.