Watchfire to be lit Sunday at dusk

The Watchfire, in the State Fair upper lot, will be torched at dusk Sunday

It's the 25th year for the Watchfire, a Memorial Day tradition started by Vietnam Veterans here in Central New York.

As in past years, they started building the pyre--mostly old wooden pallets--on Friday. The framework is complete, but people are welcome to bring old flags for burning, and to write messages on the tribute, which they'll light at dusk Sunday night.

Pete Bronstad, who's chairing this year's effort, says it's funded in part by the t-shirts and other memorabilia sold. This year, there's also a 25th anniversary book, a compilation of pictures from past Memorial Days.

The Watchfire is a tradition that dates back to the Revolutionary War, when bonfires were lit to guide lost soldiers home. The Vietnam Vets started the modern version to keep Missing in Action soldiers in the public's minds.

After 25 years, Bronstad hopes the tradition will continue, even as Vietnam-era veterans age out of participating. There are lots of 'new' veterans that could keep it going, and he expects they will organize, much as Vietnam vets did, in the decades after 'their' war.