History found regarding the ORIGIN of the Plymouth County “Avenue of Flags” Memorial Day Ceremonies; Began May 1965 —courtesy Linda Ziemann, the Plymouth Co. IA GenWeb Coordinator

Note from Linda Ziemann: I have seen in print several places where it is recorded that the first Avenue of Flags in LeMars, Iowa, was done in May 1964. One of these places is unfortunately on the memorial stone placed at the courthouse for Fred Riter, the man with the idea and vision for Avenue of Flags yearly ceremonies at the courthouse. Extensive research does reveal that indeed the FIRST Avenue of Flags ceremonies was held in May 1965, in LeMars, Iowa. See below news items, headlines and dates that confirm the year 1965.

Abstract from the LeMars Sentinel, June 2, 1969

Headline read: Dedicate 34 New Flags in Memory of Dead Servicemen; Display 253

Le Mars Wasmer post of the American Legion assisted by boy scouts displayed 253 burial flags of dead servicemen in 14 avenues on the Plymouth county court house lawn Memorial day.

The avenue of red and white stripes and blue with stars cover the north , west and part of the south lawns.

Past Wasmer post commander Fred Riter reported the crowd was the largest in the four years since he spearheaded the Avenue of Flags in 1965 in Le Mars.

The display has been held five years with dedication ceremonies held four years.  When the morning service was rained out in 1967, flags were posted that afternoon.

LeMars Daily Sentinel
Tuesday, May 26, 1964


LeMars residents are urged to attend Memorial Day services Saturday sponsored by Wasmer post, American Legion, and women’s auxiliaries. 

The annual parade and commemorative rites in both cemeteries have been scheduled.  Parade column will form at the corner of Central Ave. and First St. north near the city hall. It will move at 9 a.m. up Plymouth St. to Calvary Cemetery and then to LeMars Memorial Cemetery.

In case of rain, ceremonies will be held in the Central High School auditorium. Parade marshal will be Fay Terpenning, retired police chief who has served as marshal for many years.

The order of march will be colors, Wasmer post drum and bugle corps, Co. A marching troops, Wasmer post marching Legionnaires, mayor, speakers and city officials in cars, women’s auxiliaries, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, LeMars Municipal Band, Co. A. motor and A.P.C. units, LeMars fire department and citizens in cars.

Services at Calvary Cemetery will begin at 9:15 a.m. with Rev. William Divine presiding. Address will be given by Rev. Gerald Zeman.

Rites at LeMars Memorial Cemetery will open at 9:45 a.m.  Presiding officer will be Lyle Day, commander of Wasmer post.

Rev. Roger N. Brandt, post chaplain, will offer the opening prayer. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address will be given by Jay Stevens, with Logan’s Order by Edna Kammann.

Main address will be delivered by Clarence Aukland, past Ninth district Legion commander from Milford. Ceremonies will conclude with a benediction by Father Brandt, Star Spangled Banner by the city band, Co. A. firing squad salute and taps.

Veterans are requested to participate in the parade either in civilian clothes, uniforms of their military branch, or some article of clothing from the service unit.

Business in LeMars stores and offices will halt for the day Saturday. All federal, state and county offices will be closed.

LeMars Daily Sentinel
May 11, 1965

~Headline reads: Interest Is Stirred in Avenue of Flags

LeMars Daily Sentinel
May 19, 1965

~Headline reads: Legion Has 50 Flags Offered; Need More

LeMars Daily Sentinel
May 24, 1965

~Headline reads: Memorial Services Scheduled May 31

LeMars Daily Sentinel
May 27, 1965

~Headline reads: Plan Eternal Flame for “Avenue of Flags”

LeMars Daily Sentinel
May 28, 1965

~Headline reads: Plan Many Events Over Memorial Day

LeMars Daily Sentinel
June 1, 1965

~Headline reads, includes photo:  Dedicate 91 Flags to War Dead

LeMars Daily Sentinel
June 2, 1965

~Full two page spread of Flag Photos ~Headline reads: “Avenue of Flags” – May 31, 1965


LeMars Daily Sentinel, May 31, 1983


~~This picture in the May 31, 1983 LeMars Sentinel and its explanation is further proof that the first year for the Plymouth County Avenue of Flags was in May of 1965!

Fred E. Riter received the American Legion citation for meritorious service in organizing the first Plymouth County Avenue of Flags in 1965. He has read the names of deceased veterans whose flags are dedicated each Memorial Day since.


LeMars Daily Sentinel
Vol. 126-Pride Special
(Colored photo of LeMars Courthouse Avenue of Flags)

This is one of the most photographed scenes in Plymouth County. Over 775 flags are displayed at the Plymouth County courthouse each Memorial Day. The tradition of displaying burial flags of men and women who have served in the military began in 1964 (sic 1965.) In 1996, the display was postponed until July 4, due to heavy rain on Memorial Day. **More research of the late June early July 1996 Sentinel newspapers does not indicate that the Avenue of Flags was held in 1996 over July 4th. More to come as information surfaces about this.