May 2017 - Starr Tours & Charters
The Origin of Memorial Day

The Origin of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called ‘Decoration Day’, is a day of remembrance for those who have died while in our nation’s service, and to commemorate those who served and have passed on. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. A hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.”¹ While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead. All these events contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in an official proclamation in 1868 establishing the holiday. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all for our great Nation.

Combined Honor Guard of Pennsylvania Volunteers

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), the organization of Union veterans’ of the Civil War. He issued General Order No. 11 establishing the project of honoring the noble war dead of the nation. Accordingly, the day was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of the Union dead at Arlington National Cemetery and throughout the country. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died in any war, conflict or in service). It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays).

The first observance of Decoration Day in the Philadelphia area was on May 30, 1868 at historic Laurel Hill Cemetery on Ridge Ave. in the City. It was sponsored by the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). This Holiday continues to be observed at Laurel Hill Cemetery every year, but on the Sunday before the national holiday, sponsored by the General Meade Society and American Legion Post 405 at the Union League. Below is information about this event.


Memorial Day Parade marches off to the grave of General Meade led by Captain Mike Peter (98th PV) at Laurel Hill

Annual Memorial Day Observed at Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Recreating the Original G.A.R. Decoration Day Service of 1868: The traditional Decoration Day service of the Grand Army Meade Post #1 will be recreated at Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Ave. Philadelphia on Sunday, May 28, 2017 at 12 noon. All are welcome to attend and participate in the ceremony.

Laurel Hill is the site of the first Memorial Day Observance in Philadelphia on this date in 1868.
Special veterans’ markers will be dedicated at the graves of veterans. Speakers, ceremonies and pageant will highlight this special ceremony. After, the entourage will gather at the grave of General Meade, hero of Gettysburg, to perform the traditional service to honor all veterans who fell defending the Nation. Wreath-laying, speeches, music and honor guards will enhance the ceremony.
Keynote Speaker: LTC Michael Rounds (USMA – Class of 1988)
Historical groups, veterans, and citizens are urged to participate. Wreaths, military contingents, color guards, music and period civilians are also encouraged.

Refreshments served after the ceremony. Tours of the historic cemetery available.

Andy Waskie, Master of Ceremonies addresses the crowd at the beginning of the annual Memorial Day Service at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia

Co-sponsored by the General Meade Society of Philadelphia; Friends of Laurel Hill; American Legion Post #405
For information, call: 215-228-8200


Andy Waskie
WWII and Civil War Historian, professor, author, American Legion Member, & Starr Tour Director
¹ Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920

Kutztown Folk Festival

Starting a new job certainly has its pluses and minuses.  One of those minuses is that you need to wait for vacation time to accumulate before you can take time off of work.  I was a little concerned about this until I started my new position with Starr (in October 2015) and I learned about ALL of the incredible Day Trips by bus that Starr has to offer!!  And, because most of them are offered on weekends, I discovered that these convenient day trips can turn into one day mini-vacations for me and my family.


One of my favorite one day bus trips was to the Kutztown, PA Folk Festival.  This summer, the 9-day festival that draws over 130,000 visitors will celebrate its 68th year. Amazingly enough, the idea for this family-friendly event originated from three men who wanted to share their Pennsylvania Dutch heritage with others.  A person’s curiosity is certainly settled after visiting this festival for just one day!   After experiencing craft demonstrations, entertainment, wonderful food, folklore, and one of the nation’s finest quilt sales, I left with much greater knowledge and understanding of the PA Dutch lifestyle.


Kutztown Folk Festival

Upon entering the festival, one of the first displays we encountered was that of the farming community.  There were many farming tractors that spanned from the early days to the present.  It was fascinating to see how time and innovation has changed the farming industry for the better.  Many of the early farmers worked a tremendous amount of man hours to get their fields ready to plant their crops.  While farming is still classified as hard work, it is not nearly as hard today because of the progression of the agricultural equipment that is available for use.


As we continued walking through the festival, there were hundreds of vendors and crafters with so many beautiful handmade crafts, jewelry, and food items that you could sample, purchase, or make yourself.  Originally, all those who participated were Pennsylvania Dutch natives.  While that may not be true today, you will still witness the same level of craftsmanship being demonstrated and on display.  One of the requirements to be involved is that “all products sold at the Festival MUST be American made.”


There are many hands-on activities that are available to participate in and many were quite different from what I have seen at other festivals.  I loved observing the gentleman who had a booth set up for anyone who wanted to make their own silk scarf.  You could choose your own colors and he would guide you through the process and then you would take your lovely new scarf home to wash and wear with pride.  I also loved watching the man who makes straw brooms right before your eyes without any machine – just the use of his hands.  My daughter had the opportunity to make her own tie-dye t-shirt that she is wearing a lot these days with the comeback of the ’70s “anything tie-dye” clothing.  Furniture making, quilting, soap making, pottery, stained glass, pewter, tinning, blacksmith, and wood carving are a few more trades you will encounter throughout the day.


Besides the craft activities, some of the buildings you can visit are a 1-room schoolhouse from the 1800s, a 1-room church, antique building with hundreds of items from the past and a barn that is used to display over 2,500 hand-made quilts.  An auction is held on the Saturday before the festival ends where 24 of the best quilts are put up for auction and one is raffled off.  Also, each attendee can experience quilting and making their own square that is then assembled into the annual visitors quilt.


The variety of food offered is traditional Pennsylvania Dutch.  You can purchase a family style dinner, homemade soups and sandwiches, and more.  The areas that are reserved to have your meal are kept clean by the family members who are their selling their family recipes.  The prices are very reasonable for lunch and dinner.  Cinnamon buns, apple dumplings, and shoo-fly pie are favorites for dessert.


Our family had such a wonderful time last year that we are planning on going back to the festival again this year.  If you are looking for an adventure, and don’t have a lot of time to take off, this is a day trip where you will not be disappointed.  All in all I have now taken 9 day trips and 2 multi day vacations since I began working for Starr. That’s an average of 1 bus trip per every 7 weeks! Lucky me!  Oh… lest I not forget the best news, I now have accrued paid time off and look forward to using it to experience one of Starr’s multi-day bus trips!!


Linda Ruggieri
Tour Services Specialist,
Starr Bus Charter and Tours

Packing Tips – Or, Why You Don’t Need to Bring the Kitchen Sink, Too

After 25 years as a Tour Director for Starr, I’ve learned a few things about what to pack for a trip.  Like most folks, I learned them the hard way!  But practice makes perfect and these days, if I have even one unworn piece of clothing at the end of a tour, I feel like I didn’t pack correctly.


Here are a few suggestions I’d like to share with the hope that they make your next trip easier and more comfortable:


  • Used items only! Never, I repeat never, bring shoes or articles of clothing on vacation that are brand new.  You should always wear items prior to the trip to make sure they are comfortable and travel well.  That lovely blouse you thought would look great on your vacation may not meet your expectations if it wrinkles too much.  And shoes that are uncomfortable or cause blisters can ruin your entire trip!


  • Comfort & practicality: Don’t worry about being a fashion maven while on vacation. People traveling with you are more interested in the scenery and attractions than what you are wearing.  Comfort and practicality are much more important when choosing your travel clothing.


  • Color Coordinate: Pick a primary color for your wardrobe (examples: black, blue, brown) and a second complimentary color (ivory, white, beige, gray). Then, to mix things up a bit, add a bright color (red, yellow, purple) for an accent which you can achieve with scarves, sweaters, etc.  My personal choice is red/white/navy—all the pieces will mix-and-match.  Besides, working for Starr deserves a patriotic color scheme!  Everything in my suitcase can be worn with everything else—it makes packing easy and my suitcase lighter.


  • BYOB: (Bring your own bag!) Bring a plastic or duffle bag for your dirty/soiled clothing. If you take worn items that cannot be used again and put them in a separate bag each day, it will lighten your suitcase and keep your remaining garments cleaner and fresher.  The best part is that it will make additional room in your suitcase for souvenirs or those treasures you find along the way!  When you get home, all the dirty clothes are in one bag for you to drop in the laundry room.


  • Hangers make great helpers: Almost every travel writer has a suggestion as to how to pack your suitcase. I’ve probably tried them all sometime over the past 25 years.  The one trick that I personally like to use is packing my clothing on hangers.  Yes, the hangers take up a bit of space in my suitcase.  However, when I arrive at a hotel, it takes me less than a minute to unpack all my clothing and hang it in the closet.  This is also helpful if the hotel has insufficient hangers in the closet and you’re sharing a room with someone who also needs to use them.


  • Carry costume only: Leave your expensive and/or sentimental jewelry at home. I understand that it can be difficult to not wear your favorite pin or the bracelet you received on your anniversary.  However, I can guarantee that it will be heartbreaking if this item is lost while on tour and it will ruin your long-anticipated vacation.  I will never forget one of my passengers who took off her wedding & engagement rings in New Orleans because the heat caused her fingers to swell—she NEVER found her engagement ring.  My personal recommendation is to wear costume jewelry or none at all.


  • Follow this simple equation: Although it is an old joke in the tourism industry, it is still true today…when you are packing for a trip, take out ½ the clothing and put in 2X the spending money!


Safe travels to everyone and hope to see you on the road with Starr!



Jane Peters Estes
Starr Tour Director



Off to the Races with Starr’s First Trip to the Kentucky Derby

Off to the Races with Starr’s First Trip to the Kentucky Derby

I was very happy to be the tour coordinator assigned to Starr’s first bus trip to the Kentucky Derby departing on May 3, 2017. Working on a new tour is very interesting, challenging and inspiring – and this tour was no exception.

This new tour had been “in the works” for more than 2 years and actually became “ready for sale” in January 2016 – 16 months before the tour’s departure date! We knew this bus trip was a “bucket list” item for many people because at the end of every Starr trip, we ask for future tour suggestions to be noted on their survey. Many of our customers had requested this trip and our office responded; and thus began the planning process. Not surprisingly, so many of our customers booked the trip within the first two months that a second bus was needed! Both buses filled up quickly and eventually became sold out! So our guests packed their special hats to wear on Derby Day and our Tour Directors prepared their notes and made games for the bus trip.

The Pegasus Parade

Of course the Kentucky Derby itself is the highlight of the tour, but Starr has included many other attractions so our passengers will really be immersed in the other events surrounding the Derby including being able to experience the highlights of the Louisville, Kentucky area as well. Starr guests will attend the Pegasus Parade, a true tradition of the Derby, and visit a horse training farm. They’ll see a farm that raises Longwool sheep, visit a local theatre with antique exhibits, and of course no visit to Kentucky is complete without a stop at a bourbon distillery! There will be food throughout the tour, too! At the Pegasus Parade they will enjoy a picnic dinner, on another day they’ll have lunch at Claudia Sanders Dinner House (you may know her husband, Colonel Sanders!), and they’ll have a great “Off to the Races” dinner party with a taste of Kentucky menu. Just before the Derby itself, our passengers will go on a Riverboat Cruise where they will meet with experts to help them place their bets when the go the Kentucky Derby later that day. Did I mention I am jealous of our Starr guests who get to experience this trip??!!

I really love getting the trips ready for the road! Some of my responsibilities include: planning the timing, making reservations, and providing directions along with additional information to give to our tour directors so that everything goes smoothly. We have someone in charge of booking the hotels and another person in charge of sending the rooming lists. Our Travel Advisors sell the trips and our marketing team develops the catalogs to entice you. As you can see, it really is a team effort in making each trip a wonderful experience for our passengers. This is why it makes us so happy when our travelers and our Tour Directors send in pictures of the trips which we then post on the Starr Tours Facebook page. I love seeing our Starr guests having a great time! Don’t you?

When I plan a tour, I usually include some fun information for our Tour Directors to share with our passengers. For example, did you know there are 554 roses in the garland of roses presented to the winner of the Kentucky Derby? “Each garland is also adorned with a ‘crown’ of roses, green fern and ribbon. The ‘crown,’ a single rose pointing upward in the center of the garland, symbolizes the struggle and heart necessary to reach the Derby Winner’s Circle.”¹ Also, 100,000 Mint Juleps are poured during the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks!

Traveling is something that I enjoy very much and I truly hope that our passengers enjoy this trip to the fullest extent. I look forward to seeing lots of pictures on Facebook and if you “like” Starr’s Facebook page you can see them, too!

Don’t worry! If you missed this trip, we already have next year’s planned for May 2, 2018 and it is filling up! You could be part of the “Run for the Roses,” too!


Dawn Nachbaur,
Starr Bus Charter & Tours, Tour Services Department


¹Garland of Roses

Photos courtesy of the Louisville Area CVB