A place as patriotic as Bakersfield is never short on events honoring departed service members on Memorial Day, and this year is no different.

The first of several local Memorial Day ceremonies and activities will happen at Brookdale Riverwalk Senior Living on Friday morning.

"We have a bunch of veterans here that deserve to be honored so they feel like they're not forgotten," said Ashley Pearson, resident engagement coordinator.

The ceremony, which is open to the public and will take place outside by the fountain, will start with an opening prayer by chaplain Michael Lynch, followed by the posting of the colors by the Associated Veterans of Bakersfield, the pledge of allegiance by Marc Sandall and the national anthem by Alexis Ragus.

Mayor Karen Goh will lead the veteran roll call, while state Sen. Shannon Grove will be the guest of honor. Brookdale's executive director, Reg Webster, will also speak.

Throughout the morning there will be music and salutes, including Sandall's ringing of the bells, which he said comes from a Navy tradition and essentially means "all is clear."

"There are those that never came home," said Sandall, who is helping to plan this event and others this weekend. "We ring the bell for them."

A large flag will fly, overlooking the ceremony.

"There are flags all over the place on the grounds," Sandall said. "This is like Americana in Bakersfield. It's like something from the past."

This is the seventh year that the senior living center has held a Memorial Day ceremony. In the past it has drawn a crowd of about 150 to 200 people, most of them residents of Brookdale and their family members. 

"It's getting bigger and bigger, and (the residents are) getting excited about it," Pearson said. "A lot of them like to dress up. This is for them."

Sandall said he understands that a three-day weekend is an opportunity for a short vacation for a lot of people, but he urges anyone staying in town for the weekend to find a way to pay their respects.

"If you're here in Bakersfield, you owe it to yourself, your kids and your grandkids" to attend a local Memorial Day ceremony, Sandall said. "They need to keep passing it on so (fallen service members) are never forgotten."

Pearson encouraged people to come out to hear veterans' stories too, in addition to remembering those who died while serving. 

"We want to make sure the younger generation understands," she said. "It's not just a three-day weekend. You could come to this event and appreciate why we have it. ... Just talk to them. Talk to them and you'll understand."

Where to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend

Brookdale Riverwalk Senior Living: Starting at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Brookdale will host its eighth annual Memorial Day ceremony, with a flyover, veterans' token of gratitude, music, speakers, honor salute and more. 350 Calloway Drive, 587-0221.

Bakersfield National Cemetery: This Memorial Day ceremony will start at 9 a.m. Saturday and includes speakers Brigadier General E.J. Teichert (Commander, 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base), Tejon Ranch vice president Barry Zoeller, Assemblyman Vince Fong, Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola Jr. 30338 E. Bear Mountain Blvd. 867-2260.

The Park at River Walk: The Thousand Flags display, put on each year by the Bakersfield Breakfast Rotary Club, will return to the Park at River Walk this weekend, from Saturday to Monday. It opens at noon Saturday with the national anthem and color guard. Each day at 8 a.m. there will be a flag raising ceremony, with the flag lowered each night at 8 p.m. with taps. On Monday, there will also be a fair with booths, music and more as well as a special ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Everything is free to observe, and flags are available to sponsor at $50. 11298 Stockdale Highway, thousandflags.org.

Greenlawn Funeral Homes: Both Greenlawn locations will be holding ceremonies on Monday, at different times with a similar program (each will have a different keynote speaker). At the River Boulevard location, the ceremony will start at 11 a.m. and the keynote speaker will be state Sen. Shannon Grove. At the Panama Lane location, the ceremony will start at 2 p.m. and the keynote speaker will be Congressman Kevin McCarthy. Both ceremonies will also include Honor Flight Kern County veteran Charlie Wilmot, the national anthem sung by Bella Stine, the Bakersfield High School Junior ROTC, music by Pastor Stephen Moffett and taps by Mike Rainey of the Bakersfield Symphony. Both will also offer refreshments afterward. 3700 River Blvd. 324-9701; 2739 Panama Lane, 834-8820.

Historic Union Cemetery: This is Kern County's oldest traditional Memorial Day ceremony, going back around 70 years, Sandall said. It starts at 9 a.m. Monday and will include patriotic music, a biodegradable balloon release with personal remembrance card, a tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day and guest speaker Josh Dhanen. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Mayor Karen Goh and Assemblyman Vince Fong are expected to attend, Sandall said. A barbecue will follow. 730 E. Potomac Ave., 324-9648.

Hillcrest Memorial Park and Mortuary: Following the event at Union Cemetery, Hillcrest will hold its own at 11:30 a.m. Monday. 9101 Kern Canyon Road, 487-0350.

Camp Hamilton Veteran Memorial Park: The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. Monday, with a free barbecue after. All are welcome to attend. 34999 Lerdo Highway, 487-0350.

Elks Lodge: Celebrate Memorial Day with hamburgers and hot dogs Monday at 6 p.m. Cost is $5. 1616 30th St. 323-7535.

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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