Here's what will happen to the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy memorial at Veterans Park

·3 min read

"Keep running the bases kid!"

It's written with a ballpoint pen. Two small hearts and the hashtag #Jackson23 highlight the message printed on a white baseball nestled between a two cellophane-wrapped and weathered bouquets of flowers lying on the concrete ground.

There's a small white hand-painted rock scribed with green Sharpie that says Leanna Owen 71.

A black cap that reads Milwaukee Dancing Grannies sits on a pile of flowers.

There are candles, paintings, stuffed animals and scribbled messages from the heart of hope, love and loss.

The makeshift memorial at Veterans Park, on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and North West Avenue in Waukesha, has grown since Nov. 21, when a man drove a red Ford Escape through barricades along the route of the city's annual Christmas parade. In the aftermath, six were dead and at least 62 injured.

A baseball with 8-year-old Jackson Sparks' name, who was one of six victims killed in the parade, holds a message saying "Keep running the bases kid!" It'ss among the items left at Veterans Park as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured.
A baseball with 8-year-old Jackson Sparks' name, who was one of six victims killed in the parade, holds a message saying "Keep running the bases kid!" It'ss among the items left at Veterans Park as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured.

For days, the memorial has served as a refuge for those without answers to so many unanswerable questions. It was a place to gather and pray. To console one another. And for many, a place to quietly lay mementos as a sign they cared.

In the weeks that have passed since the tragedy, the memorial at the base of the Veterans Park sundial sculpture has grown to included thousands of items that stretch nearly 50 feet long, 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep with more than thoughts and prayers.

What to do with the items left behind is something the city of Waukesha is working on. While the final plans are still in the early stages, city officials understand the importance of the memorial.

A hand-painted rock with the name of Dancing Grannies member Leanna "Lee" Owen, age 71, who was killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade Tragedy, is among the items left at Veterans Park in Waukesha as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured.
A hand-painted rock with the name of Dancing Grannies member Leanna "Lee" Owen, age 71, who was killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade Tragedy, is among the items left at Veterans Park in Waukesha as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured.

"We're very sensitive to what it means to the community and family members, and we want to make sure it's preserved and handled appropriately," said Kevin Lahner Waukesha city administrator.

Lahner explained that the city has been working with Waukesha County Historical Society and the Wisconsin State Historical Society to determine what items to save and physically archive or make photographic archives of.

While many of the items — such as wilted flower bouquets and candle votives that have burned down — will have to be discarded, Lahner said everything will be sorted through. "We're preserving what we can," he said.

A Dancing Grannies hat is among the items left at Veterans Park in Waukesha as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade Tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured. Three of the Dancing Grannies members were killed, as was the husband of a fourth member.
A Dancing Grannies hat is among the items left at Veterans Park in Waukesha as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade Tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured. Three of the Dancing Grannies members were killed, as was the husband of a fourth member.

Work to go through the items will begin in the next week or so. Lahner encouraged people to check for updates on the progress on the city's Facebook page. But he also stressed there's still a lot of planning to be done for something more lasting.

"We're beginning discussions for a permanent memorial and trying to figure out the best way to to recognize those who were injured and lost," Lahner explained.

The memorial, along the Fox River, is directly across the street from the end of the parade route, where a Waukesha police officer fired at the vehicle police say was driven by 39-year-old Darrell E. Brooks Jr., striking the vehicle three times. The officer stopped then, to avoid injuring any parade spectators. The SUV sped away down North West Avenue.

Items are left at Veterans Park in Waukesha on Dec. 6 as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured.
Items are left at Veterans Park in Waukesha on Dec. 6 as a memorial commemorating those who were killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy that left six people dead and more than 60 injured.

Among the balloons, stuffed teddy bears and candles is a song written for the Dancing Grannies. The last line reads: "And while some now dance in Heaven, we all know it to be true, as those grannies keep on dancing, let us say we love you!"

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What will happen to the Waukesha parade memorial at Veterans Park

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