Stay safe Memorial Day weekend

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By Leslie Moore

Tomorrow is the beginning of a much-anticipated three-day weekend, thanks to Monday being Memorial Day.

A day set aside for honoring those loved ones who are no longer with us, Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial beginning of summer.

While many of us will experience some sadness this weekend as we place lovely flower arrangements on the tombstones of our loved ones and listen quietly as the names of people who died in the last year are read in church, we also look forward to spending time with our families and having some fun in the sun.

There is a chance for some rain and scattered thunderstorms throughout the weekend, but it is doubtful to warrant canceling our outdoor plans.

This year, I will head to Rolling Fork River in Marion County for my family's first canoe trip of the year. Like many before, this excursion will involve lots of paddling and swimming, as well as a likely fruitless search for baby turtles that can swim much faster than me.

Many of you will be going to barbecues, family reunions and taking boat rides on Green River Lake. And while all the fun we'll be having this weekend will make for some lifelong memories, let's make sure they're positive ones.

Spring fever has hit and we're eager to shed scratchy winter sweaters in favor of bathing suits and flip flops, but in our rush to have a good time, we need to slow down long enough to remember to be safe.

The government's official website, www.usda.gov, offers several guidelines and tips that are relevant not just this weekend, but all summer long.

As with driving and operating heavy machinery, alcohol and the water are not a good combination. While we know it's against the law to drink and drive, some people might be unaware that drinking and boating will also land you in deep water. 

So if you plan on swimming this weekend, don't count on the chilly water to sober you up and stick with a refreshing glass of lemonade.

Children younger than 12 must wear a life jacket at all times when riding on a boat, and if you can't swim, get over the weird tan lines and put one on, too.

Whether they're swimming in a lake, pool or shallow creek, never leave children unsupervised in the water.

Many of you will be traveling this weekend. Be warned that police officers will be enforcing "Click It or Ticket," but remember wearing your seat belt is not just for avoiding fines, it's to save your life. Also, don't get in a hurry and ignore the speed limit signs on your way to the party. Save yourself some time and make the pasta salad a day ahead.

Most of our plans this weekend will focus heavily on food, but our risk of contracting food-borne illnesses increases when food is left out to get too warm or cold. If you're in charge of the grill this weekend, check that meats are cooked to the appropriate temperature to kill bacteria.

Enjoy your time with family this weekend. Please remember to be safe.