Celebrating Old Glory in Emmaus
An enormous American flag welcomed the patriotic gathering at Emmaus Community Park June 14, the official day designated as National Flag Day.
Old Glory was displayed inside the celebration pavilion to honor the Flag Day Observance. The organizers of the event included the Emmaus Flag Day Association, Emmaus Special Entertainment Committee and The GFWC PA Women’s Club of Emmaus.
Upon arriving, the guests received a program, songbook, a miniature flag and a dual-flagged lapel pin portraying the American flag and the flag of Pennsylvania.
The first Flag Day was organized by Bernard J. Cigrand, at Fredonia Public School, Wisconsin, for his students and celebrated as “Flag Birthday” or “Flag Day” June 14, 1885. The observation was to mark the 108th anniversary of the American flag. President Woodrow Wilson officially established Flag Day May 30, 1916; however, it wasn’t until President Truman signed an Act of Congress, assigning June 14 as National Flag Day.
Emmaus Borough Council member Nathan Brown spoke of our flag as being a “rally cry” and said, “It’s amazing that people laid down their lives for our country.” He thanked Marge Heatley, president of the Emmaus Flag Association, Pat Weller, assistant to the president of the Emmaus Flag Association, Pat Stasko, chair of the Flag Day program committee and Judge Douglas G. Reichley for their support. Heatley, Weller and Stasko are also members of The GFWC PA Women’s Club of Emmaus. Brown also recognized the founder of the Emmaus Flag Day Association, Joe Zeller, a former mayor of Emmaus who started the association in 1969.
All were silent as Brown called for “The Advance of the Colors” led by the Emmaus Veterans Committee. As the crowd stood, the veterans marched up the middle aisle, holding a POW/MIA flag and an American flag. Boy Scout Troop 80 and the Girls Scouts of the Little Lehigh Service Unit followed close behind.
The Rev. Lori Esslinger, pastor of Old Zionsville United Church of Christ, gave the opening invocation and benediction, ending with a short prayer.
In recognition and honor to the flag, the audience and those on the stage stood for the pledge to the flag.
Songs from the Emmaus Chorale were woven throughout the evening, led by director Laura Rabenold and accompanied by pianist Cindy Kerr. Soloist Christine Castiello sang, “The Star Spangled Banner.” Upbeat, patriotic sing-a-longs such as, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” engaged the crowd, further connecting them to the spirit of the event. This was the 29th year the Emmaus Chorale participated in the Flag Day program.
Emmaus Mayor Winfield Iobst welcomed attendees and credited the many volunteers who make this event possible every year. Iobst has participated in the Flag Day observance for 18 years.
Next, the East Penn School District and St. Ann School writing contest winners read their winning renditions of the theme, “What the Flag Means to Me.”
For this theme, fifth grade students wrote poems and eighth grade students compiled essays. Iobst, Brown and Stasko shared in presenting the students with their awards. Each was presented with a boxed American flag and desk set donated by state Rep. Justin Simmons, R-131st. The winners also received a trophy and a medal donated by the Emmaus Flag Day Association.
Iobst enjoyed handing out the awards and is no stranger to doing so for he’s given out many Eagle Scout awards. He was happy to see the Scouts included in advancing the colors.
The contest also has personal ties for Iobst, whose son won the same essay contest when he was in middle school.
“The younger generation should take a big interest in what the flag stands for,” Iobst said.
Guest speaker John Gallagher, a social studies teacher at Emmaus High School enthusiastically posed a question on the Revolutionary war.
“If you were a betting man, who would you bet on to win that war? It makes sense that our country needed something to bring us together – that dyed white cloth,” pointing to a nearby flag. Gallagher said the American flag represents “allegiance and loyalty” to him.
Gallagher recalled as a boy sitting on the stairs to overhear war stories told by his father and uncles who fought in World War II. They would banter back and forth about which one of them had it worse. He also reminded the attendees of the famous words of Francis Scott Key, the writer of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Gallagher said, “Francis Scott Key said in 1814 that it was a love song for our country.”
Kelly Ebeling, a leader from the Girl Scouts of the Little Lehigh Service Unit, Troop 6810, saw the program as a teachable time for her Troop, which includes her daughter, Alexa. “One of the things we worked on with this Troop is celebrating community. Having the girls come to see this was a reinforcement of what we’re teaching them.”
Fifth grade contest winners include: First place - Trisha Mukherjee, Wescosville Elementary School (teacher Jena Gardner); second place - Madison Compher, Macungie Elementary School (teacher Alyson Smith) and third place - Alison Heflin, Jefferson Elementary (teacher Kathi Rodrigues).
Eighth grade contest winners include: First place – Alexa Ryan, Lower Macungie Middle School (teacher Bonnie Raub); second place – Ruby Binder, St. Ann School (teacher Maureen Leitzel) and third place – Matthew Ninesling, Lower Macungie Middle School (teacher Bonnie Raub).