Bedford, businesses prepare for 75th D-Day anniversary

Flags, decorations line streets; businesses expect huge crowds

BEDFORD, Va. – Thousands of people from all over the world will head to Bedford to commemorate the 75th D-Day anniversary and businesses and town officials are preparing for the crowds.

The streets in downtown Bedford are lined with flags and decorations as businesses prepare to honor the soldiers who lost their lives.

Staff Sgt. John Schenk met his wife on a blind date at the old Green’s Drug Store in town. Elmere Wright was going to play baseball for the St. Louis Browns when he returned from war. However, Wright, Schenk and 17 other Bedford Boys never made it home.

“These boys’ footprints are all over Green’s Drug Store," Ken Parker said.

Parker and his wife, Linda, opened Company A Bedford Boys Tribute Center and 40's Cafe @ Green's to tell the boys' stories and their ties to the town.

“They dated here. They worked here. They did everything here," said Ken Parker.

Since opening in late April, more than 600 people have walked through the nonprofit’s doors.

“I think this is our last quiet hour before the deluge," Parker said

New and old businesses in Bedford have been planning for the 75th D-Day anniversary for a year. Blue Lady restaurant is extending hours and adding tables to handle the rush. Ippolito Candy is selling American flag-shaped chocolates and donating half of the proceeds to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation.

Economic Development Coordinator Mary Zirkle doesn't track how much money D-Day tourism brings into town, but she says 50,000 people visit the memorial each year, which has a big impact on a small town.

Town officials hosted an academy for businesses to teach marketing and how to handle the crowds. About 15,000 to 20,000 visitors are expected to visit the memorial during the week of the anniversary. Since 2019 marks the 75th anniversary, businesses and town officials expect even more people to visit the area all year long.

"We’re seeing that they’ve been putting up posters of D-Day," Zirkle said, "creating a welcoming environment.”

The town also has plans to improve streetscapes leading from the memorial to downtown. Engineering for those improvements should be finished in a year.

The goal is to attract visitors and pay tribute to the soldiers and boys who never made it back to their hometown.

"Freedom was never free," Parker said. "It had to be won by their sacrifices.”

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