It’s Memorial Day weekend! Even though most of the country is opening up, it won’t be business as usual for this 2020 holiday. After all, the pandemic is still a reality, and social distancing is very much in place. The Shady Pines Gazette news editor, Zulah Talmadge, put out the word a week ago that she wants the people of Shady Pines Story Town to submit ideas for new ways to celebrate. Now, she’s having a hard time answering all the calls coming in!

“Yes, Sara, we’re doing a bunch of different stories about the holiday. What are you and Joe and the kids doing this year? You’re going to the picnic in Stone Wall Park? You know it’s going to be different? Uh-huh. I see. You’re bringing your own food and plan to stay six feet apart from everyone else? OK. We’ll see you there.”

Zulah writes a few ideas in her reporter’s notebook. The annual Shady Pines Story Town Memorial Day Picnic is a big deal every year. But the gathering this year will be smaller and have strict conditions about where people can sit and what they can do.

Parking will be restricted to fewer cars than normal and areas will be roped off to prevent people gathering in large groups. Volunteers will be on hand to encourage everyone to follow the new rules so that everyone stays safe. Shady Pines is a small Southern town with a population of around 6,000 people. So,managing “crowds’ is easier here than in some places around the country.

Across the newsroom, Scoop the Cub Reporter is talking to a father with a story idea.

“So, Mr. Johnson, let me get this right. Your oldest son is a soldier. He is stationed a long way away from Shady Pines. You and other families are getting together tomorrow to send letters and gift boxes to the troops. And that’s happening at the Community Center? Director Rita Malena is organizing it? That’s great. I think I’ve got it.”

Breaking NewsAfter the gentleman leaves, Scoop walks over to Zulah’s desk.

“Ms. Talmadge, here are my notes about the Community Center Connect With A Soldier activities.”

Zulah looks them over. “Thanks, Scoop. It’s especially important to remember the soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom. We owe them so much.”

Scoop looks right her. “We need to make sure our reporting reminds everyone of that.”

Zulah nods her head. “On a lighter note, I just got a call from a mom who wants us to know that some folks are skipping the picnic at Stonewall Park this year. She says instead, they plan to swim, picnic and take the small sail boats out on the lake.”

Scoop smiles. “Well, that’s right next to the park, so we can cover both areas easily.”

As Memorial Day dawns, people all over town spring into action. Some walk their dogs; kids ride their bicycles and parents make plans for the day. Many neighbors are just staying home and having backyard picnics. There’s one thing they all have in common. They’re all finding ways to enjoy our national holiday.

Zulah and Scoop catch all the action down by the lake before heading to Stonewall Park.

By 5pm Mayor Beauregard Fibbs is ready to kick off the festivities there. He has a microphone so people can hear what he has to say.

“Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for being here on this glorious Memorial Day. Before we get started, let’s take a minute to remember the brave soldiers from Shady Pines who gave everything so that we have the lives we do. Please bow your heads in silence.”

Zulah and Scoop stand with all their neighbors, and pause to reflect on those who have been lost in military conflicts.

“Thank you, folks,” says Mayor Fibbs. “Welcome. Look around. You’ll see everyone has prepared their own meal, are staying close enough to chat, but not too close.  Look, we all realize this is not our usual event, but let’s be responsibe so that we all stay healthy. And, how about a round of applause for all our health care workers and first reponders who have been going above and beyond in this time of need.  That’s it. Hit your pots and pans together. Let’s make some noise! All right. Enjoy your meal and when it gets dark, we’ll start the movie. Have a great time!”

Following the mayor’s remarks, everyone digs in to the hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and all the typical picnic foods each family has packed. While the kids play, some of the adults sit in folding chairs, spaced a good distance apart and talk. By the way, the FORKLY website has some Memorial Day recipes for kids: GO HERE

“Come on, Scoop,” says Zulah. “Why don’t you get some shots of all this activity while I get some comments from folks. We should have enough for a good story.”

Scoop struggles with his camera. “After that, can we eat?”

“Spoken like a true teenager. Of, course we can, Scoop. I brought a cooler full of food just for us!” says Zulah.

Another successful Memorial Day is officially underway. Neighbors of all ages and backgrounds laugh, swap stories, and eat a good meal. More memories are being made during this slightly different approach to an important American holiday.

What are some of your plans for Memorial Day this year? Please share them with us in commnets.