World War I Homecoming Celebration

World War I homecomingSangamon County honored its veterans of World War I with a daylong Homecoming Celebration on June 24, 1919.

The event began with a parade that started in downtown Springfield and ended at Washington Park. The memorial service there was described by Nellie Browne Duff in her Honor Book of Sangamon County:

The Memorial services were impressive and unique. A deep toned gun fired a bomb high into the air. The bomb exploded and Old Glory unfurled to the breeze. As the Stars and Stripes found a place in the sun, Bugler Hildreth Davis sounded “Taps.”

As the last note of the bugle died away, twenty salutes were fired. After the salutes, bombs were fired into the air, each one exploding and releasing ten silk flags attached to parachutes, each flag bearing a star for a service man who gave his life for his country. these flags floated over the heads of the crowd assembled in memory of those who were gone.

Bronze medals were then presented to the families of the Gold Star men, each medal giving the name and service record of the man it honored. At the close of the ceremony another large silk American flag was shot into the air and floated out as a glorious symbol of the sacrifice the dead heroes had made. So did Sangamon county honor the men who made the supreme sacrifice.

Boxing and wrestling matches were staged during the afternoon for the entertainment of the men, and games of every sort, in which they participated or looked on, as they desired.

Fireworks in the evening were followed by a banquet and a dance, for which several blocks of South Grand Avenue were closed and “bands stationed at intervals to furnish the gay dancing strains.”

Although black soldiers marched in the parade, African Americans were not part of the rest of the festivities.

“The colored service men who had turned out of the prade after it passed the reviewing stand, were banqueted and feted in the Arsenal, where they enjoyed dancing in the evening,” Duff wrote. “And nothing was spared to give them the ‘Welcome’ which their splendid record as fighters deserved.”schs logo (2)

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