They camped, they planted, they played and they prayed.
Here’s how some Inland Northwest residents marked the day set aside in 1868 to remember those who fought for the Union and Confederacy – and how they spent the three-day weekend that has become the unofficial start of camping season.
Honoring the dead
More than 2,000 flags snapped in the breeze at Fairmount Memorial Park, where Monday morning’s rain fell on the fresh flowers placed at graves.
Inside the Iwo Jima Memorial, every pew and folding chair was taken for the Memorial Day service, a tradition at Fairmount and many other cemeteries.
Some in the Fairmount crowd wore military uniforms – a few current, others pulled from trunks. Veterans of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard stood in turn as their songs played.
“The price we pay for war is so dear and so personal,” Mayor Dennis Hession said from the podium.
Hession quoted from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address – “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right” – but he wasn’t just talking about the distant past. The mayor paid tribute to two home-grown men who were casualties of fighting in the Middle East: Army Spc. Robert Benson and Marine Cpl. Darrel Morris.
Memorial Day is a time to “set aside distraction and focus on their valor and bestow upon them our appreciation,” Hession said.
The service included a 21-gun salute. Paul Manly, of the VFW, played taps. Then Steve Brown, of the Angus Scott Pipe Band, played “Going Home,” and the audience filed out to find loved ones’ graves.
“Every day is Memorial Day for us,” said Mike Foth, a VFW post commander.
Vicki Mularski watched Saturday as her grandson dug in the sand at the Indian Creek campground. He was aiming for China, announced 5-year-old Zane, who had already braved Priest Lake’s chilly waters with 3-year-old Taylor.
“This is what camping is about,” said Mularski, who works at Greenacres Middle School in Spokane Valley.
Savvy campers like Mularski know that enjoying one of the region’s most coveted campsites means planning well in advance.
“They’re on the phone (for reservations) as soon as the call center opens,” which was several months ago, said Priest Lake State Park employee Kirsten Benzo.
Swimming is what Zane says he likes best about camping. There are also popcorn to be cooked over the fire and bikes to be ridden on campground trails.
Saturday’s blue skis had Mularski wishing they’d brought one more toy. “We didn’t think it was going to be this warm or we would have brought the boat,” she said.
It wouldn’t be Memorial Day camping, though, without rain to dampen the tent before it’s put away.
“We’re going to … clean up and do the dishes at home instead of here,” Spokane’s Lynne Massie said Monday morning, as rain fell at Riverside State Park.
The woods are blooming, and people were there to enjoy it.
Every roadside turnout in Mount Spokane State Park was packed Sunday afternoon with rigs that had delivered hikers, bikers and horse riders. For their efforts, they were treated to the last of the trillium and the occasional drum of ruffed grouse seeking mates.
Canoeists on the Little Spokane River got a view of riverside irises.
Hikers in the pine foothills surrounding the city were treated to the first blooms of wild roses. Those who wandered off trails may have stumbled into the year’s first poison ivy.
The lupine were blooming, and the quail were paired up at one of Washington’s most popular early-season campgrounds, Steamboat Rock State Park on Banks Lake.
Tending the greens
Not everyone headed for the backcountry.
For many folks, Memorial Day weekend means yard work, as evidenced by the drone of mowers and tillers in Spokane neighborhoods.
Others took it easy. Hundreds took advantage of Saturday’s sunshine to stroll through Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane. A child kicked a beach ball as others around him reclined on the lush grass. Two gray-haired men in T-shirts tossed a purple Frisbee.
Three-year-old SeKoiya Davis “screamed all day to come feed the ducks,” as she had done on Easter, said her grandmother, Lisa Davis.
On Saturday, the ducks got two full loaves of bread. But SeKoiya said her favorite part of the day was her big bag of popcorn. More fun was in store for Sunday, when she was to see “Shrek the Third.”
Lori and Roy Henry accompanied their friend Lisa Lautermilch and her five children to Riverfront Park. The kids donned swimming suits and dashed through the big Rotary fountain.
“We came down and had peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, brought the kids to the big wagon slide and let them ride the merry-go-round,” Lori Henry said.
The kids shivered in wet clothes as they took sloppy bites from snow cones.
Roy Henry said the family comes to the park for special occasions. “It’s a beautiful start to the Memorial Day weekend.”
A little spring action
For the Arquette family, of Spokane, the holiday had started with a bike ride through damp, cool morning air to the Wall Street Diner. By late afternoon, as the sun was making its first appearance, they were standing in the darkened lobby of the Riverfront Park IMAX theater, waiting for the 4:15 showing of “Spider-Man 3.”
Connor Arquette, 11, had been campaigning all weekend to see the movie. He’s a big fan.
“Oh yeah!” he said, shuffling his feet in hopes his parents would move a bit faster toward the theater door.
His parents, Tracey and Quentin Arquette, had some reservations about spending 140 minutes staring at a fast-action movie on a screen nearly six stories high. “We’re afraid we might get sick,” Tracey Arquette said.
Rain spurred folks into movie theaters and furniture stores across the region. Jeromie Pope, of Liberty Lake, said he intended to see “Spider-Man 3” on Monday afternoon regardless of the weather.
“We’ve been planning it all week,” he said.
His friend Erin Applegate explained that she’s “not a crazy Spider-Man fan,” but going to a movie sounded like more fun than her other chore for the weekend: registering for the next term’s classes at North Idaho College.