SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The annual Memorial Day watchfire at the New York State fairgrounds has been cancelled for the third year in a row.

In 2020 and 2021, the event was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, it’s because of confusion over the state permitting process.

Bill Martin, the watchfire’s co-sponsor and a member of VVA CNY Chapter 103, blames regulations from the State Health Department, which he interprets as a limit on the amount of people at this year’s event.

A spokesperson for the State of New York clarifies.

For decades, the event fell under a blanket permit granted to the State Fairgrounds. In 2019, the rules changed but because the event hasn’t happened since, this is the first year the Watchfire had to apply for an individual permit.

In this case, a permit is required for events expecting over 5,000 people and are granted if organizers prove they have followed safety requirements: like an ambulance on site.

The state feels the Watchfire already takes proactive steps and could easily be granted a permit, but the organization hasn’t yet filed.

The spokesperson says if the organizers want to change their minds and apply, the process can be expedited.

The event, founded by the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) CNY Chapter 103, started in 1995 with around 40 to 50 people. At the most recent watchfires, the visitors numbered in the thousands. Watchfires were first used during wars to help soldiers find their way back to their troops after a battle.