PORTLAND — A motorcade of 50 trucks, motorcyles and other vehicles bringing 20,000 holiday wreaths from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia will make three stops in the Portland area Sunday.
The “Escort to Arlington” convoy is organized by Wreaths Across America, a Maine group that has received international attention for laying wreaths at the graves of U.S. military veterans.
Led by Maine first lady Ann LePage and the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle club, the convoy begins its 784-mile trip in Lubec Saturday morning and ends a week later, Dec. 15, with a wreath-laying service at the veterans cemetery.
At about 4:15 p.m. Dec. 9, the caravan will make a brief stop in Freeport at the town’s fire station on Main Street, and will be greeted by the Freeport Flag Ladies, the well-known volunteer group.
Following U.S. Route 1 through Yarmouth, Cumberland and Falmouth, the convoy will then travel to Portland and be joined by an escort of the city’s police and firefighters. Portions of Ocean Avenue, Read Street and Canco Road will be closed from 4:30-5:30 p.m.
At Cheverus High School, 267 Ocean Ave., Gov. Paul LePage will greet his wife and the rest of the convoy. The group will then attend a 5 p.m. public ceremony in the the school gym, where the wreaths will be blessed.
Escort to Arlington then heads for its final stop of the day, at 7 p.m. at the Cabela’s outfitting store off Payne Road in Scarborough, near Exit 42 of the Maine Turnpike.
When it reaches Arlington Dec. 15, convoy volunteers will lay wreaths at sites throughout the cemetery, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the grave of President John F. Kennedy, the USS Maine Mast and memorials for World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Wreaths Across America began in 1992, when the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington found it had a surplus of holiday wreaths. Company president Morrill Worcester donated the wreaths to be placed in a section of Arlington National Cemetery that received few visitors.
Since then, the project has grown to include the delivery of thousands of wreaths to Arlington, as well as to more than 400 veterans cemeteries and monuments, and 24 offshore sites including Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France.