Many people who gathered in Nipper Park at 7 p.m. Saturday evening, May 25, for the fifth annual Memorial Lantern Float by James O'Donnell Funeral Home were waiting to take pictures when their lanterns were floated in the water, and they had an unexpected view.
The Mississippi River did not cooperate by taking the lit lanterns downstream - or even upstream into Bear Creek as happened in years past. Instead, the strong wind and current kept nearly all the lanterns on the shore.
After attempting to launch the lit lanterns in the river side of the walkway around Nipper Park, the sponsors instead sent the little lanterns down their chute into the boat docking area at Nipper Park. The picture taking continued there.
This year the weather was unseasonably cold, with the dropping temperature sending some people back to their cars for heavier coats.
Members of the local American Legion were on hand to participate in the Color Guard and gun salute to honor military veterans.
Becky Bramblett's husband, Dennis, was among them. Becky and their daughter Taylor are also American Legion members. Despite being on crutches after injuring her knee, Taylor was having a busy day. Earlier Saturday she sang the National Anthem at the opening ceremony of the American Legion Baseball Tournament, which had been moved from Hannibal to Palmyra because of the storm damage at Veterans School.
Some people at the lantern float had come from other states, such as Janet Simmer of Lake Orion, Mich. she was honoring her "little brother, Daniel Phelps, who died in 1991. "This is something he would have thought was awesome," she said. She had come for the Twain on Main festival on North Main Street, and learned about the Memorial Lantern Float.
Angela Gastreich of Lake Saint Louis was visiting Hannibal for the first time. As her children, Paiten Gastreich-Hurst, 5, and Delainey Gastreich, almost 2, were busy decorating lanterns she explained she was honoring her grandparents.
Two cousins who were reared in Hannibal and now live elsewhere, Vicki Abright and Crystal Brown, were honoring their grandparents.
Many Hannibalians also were busy decorating lanterns, including Gloria Burns and her granddaughter, McKensye Garvos. Burns said she was decorating a lantern "for all the loved ones in my family,"
The solemn ceremony began with the Color Guard, then a three-gun salute to honor veterans and Taps, all presented by members of the American Legion.
Two songs were sung by a quartet composed of Joe Johnson, Shelly Goodman, Meryl DexheimEr and Mark Underhill.
The featured speaker, the Rev. Tim Goodman, quoted both the Old and New Testament about how people honored their deceased loved ones. "Today as we think about these loved ones who have gone before us, we have monuments in our lives," he said. "We thank God for the special memories we share with these people. We know life does go on. When we look at the lanterns, think of the monuments (they left their families)."
Page 2 of 2 - Ron Pashia, who had been participating in the Color Guard, invited the crowd to attend the Memorial Day service at the American Legion Home on Monday. He also urged all present to share what their loved had passed down to them "with those around you" and to "spend an hour a day in prayer."
This Memorial Day weekend event grows more popular every year, according to Jim O'Donnell. "We appreciate the community's support," O'Donnell said. "It is a wonderful ceremony, and we look forward to doing it again next year."
He added that one Hannibal High School class was having a class reunion and the group decorated lanterns to honor their deceased classmates.
See photo gallery for more pictures of the lantern float.