By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) — Under a large striped tent, pitched in a parking lot along 34th Avenue is where Mitch Fine spends every Memorial Day weekend.

From the time he was seven years old he has been surrounded by flowers of all types.

“I’ve spent it here for 57 years and I have not missed a holiday in my whole life – this is my life,” Fine said.

His curbside flower operation across the avenue from Fort Snelling National Cemetery is a traditional stop for many families. Before driving in to visit their loved one’s grave in the sea of white marble headstones, families often stop to pick out a colorful arrangement.

Jim and Laurie Voorhees drove up from Lake City, Minn., to visit the graves of 12 relatives buried here.

“This is the first thing I think of each Memorial Day, leaving flowers for each of my brother’s boys, ” Laurie Voorhees said.

For others, the annual holiday weekend means hitting crowded highways to spend time at a cabin or campground. Helen Brinkman and her husband pulled their camper all the way from South Dakota to spend it with their three grandchildren.

“We kind of talked about not coming this year, but then we thought … ‘Hey, we’re not going to cut out everything.’ So we just watched what we did and saved the money for it,” Helen Brinkman said.

In recent weeks, gasoline prices have dropped by roughly 30 cents per gallon. Despite that, a gallon of gas is still selling for close to $3.70 per gallon. That means there aren’t as many motor homes rolling into the KOA campground in Maple Grove, Minn. However, the campground managers say they expect to be about 80 percent full this Memorial Day weekend.

To Mark Hagman, high gas prices or not, spending a precious holiday weekend with his family is a tradition he’s not ready to give up.

“All it does is bring us closer to the home area,” Hagman said. “Instead of going two or three hundred miles away we’ll stay within a couple of hours from the house.”

Bill Hudson