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At the downtown Anchorage cemetery, the busiest day of the year

The mayday trees bloomed just in time for Memorial Day, the busiest day of the year at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery.

On a regular day, maybe a hundred people will walk through Anchorage's downtown cemetery, said director Rob Jones.

Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery director Rob Jones near a mayday tree in bloom on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

On Memorial Day, a thousand or so people will visit.

"It's like the Super Bowl Sunday," he said.

At the cemetery whose visitors are as multicultural as Anchorage, some people quietly place bouquets at gravestones, while others hold all-day graveside picnics.

Joy Chavez Mapaye visits her husband Dale Tran with their daughters Abigail, 5, and Isabella, 7, at Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, 2018. Tran who served as a medic in the U.S. Army and the National Guard and later as the chief financial officer of Kaladi Brothers Coffee died unexpectedly at the age of 42. (Bill Roth / ADN)

While the cemetery rules say no one can bring "balloons, barbecues, games, glass and pets" inside, Jones said he keeps things are a little looser on Memorial Day.

A kid on a razor scooter whizzed by behind him.

"On a Wednesday if someone shows up with a tent and barbecue, we're going to have a bit more of an in-depth discussion," he said. "Today it's just hey, I'm glad you could join us."

He's glad to see the cemetery bustling with visitors.

"If people can come out and pay respects to their loved ones, that's what cemeteries are for," he said.

At the grave of Chue Zang Chang, who died on Nov. 5, 2015, someone had left bottles of water, energy drinks, slices of watermelon, rice, meat and Hmong sausage.

A few headstones down, someone had left a Starbucks drink and fresh white flowers on the grave of Rev. Tili Papafua Tialuea, who died in 2010.

Jill Leniu, right, and family gathered at her husband’s gravesite on Memorial Day.  (Bill Roth / ADN)

Jill Leniu and a half-dozen family members gathered around the freshly placed gravestone of her husband Falenofoa Apera'amo Leniu.

The accountant and father of four daughters died in April of last year of a heart attack, she said. He was 35. His gravestone had just been placed on Friday.

Someone arrived with a big sheet cake in a pink box. Music played from a speaker. The children tossed a football. Gold balloons spelled out his nickname, Fale.

Memorial Day grave visits are about remembering and honoring family members, Leipu said. But they're also about spending time together.

"We're just here to be with him," she said.

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