Hundreds gather for historic CNY watchfire at fairgrounds

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — After a three year hiatus, the Memorial Day Weekend watchfire returned to the New York State Fairgrounds on Sunday.

A massive pile of wooden pallets and retired American flags bursted into flames at dusk on Sunday. Hundreds of people gathered to watch the blaze.

“The fire is a healing process for us,” said Louis Pascarella, a Vietnam veteran.

For others its a way to honor our U.S. soldiers and veterans.

“So many paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Kathleen Gardiner of Central New York.

A 33-year-old Memorial Day Tradition in Central New York held at the New York State Fairgrounds. The historic watchfire is a way to thank our veterans for their service, and for paying that ultimate sacrifice. It’s also a tradition for people like Gardiner.

“I’ve been coming for probably 20. One of the first ones I came to was when they brought the traveling wall, the Vietnam wall. Then I started bringing my husband and our little one who is now 15,” said Gardiner.

But this year is different for Gardiner and her family.

“We used to bring our mom and dad and they are gone now,” said Gardiner.

Gardiner’s grandfather, great uncle and father all veterans, who are no longer with us. But Gardiner knows in her heart they are there in spirit, making sure to write a message on the wall to them.

“They said thank you and we love you and we miss you,” said Gardiner.

A wall full of powerful messages to our nations heroes.

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