It’s June 14th – Flag Day. Nestled in the Northwestern corner of the county where I grew up, lies a small town of about 600 people. The town’s name is Waubeka, and it’s the birthplace of Flag Day. Every year on a Sunday near June 14th, they host a huge Flag Day celebration.
Bernard J. Cigrand held the first Flag Day at a school in Waubeka in 1885. That school, Stony Hill School, has been restored and opens for tours each Flag Day.
There’s nothing quite like the feel of a Midwestern small town celebration. People young and old, even pets, dress in red, white and blue. Folks line the streets for the parade which can last up to two hours. Stony Hill School hosts an avenue of flags, where each state is represented. After the parade, there are old-time children’s games, music, and food. The day ends with a grand finale of fireworks.
Every year, a branch of the military, or veterans from a given era, are honored. To me, the best part of the Flag Day celebration, is the sense of community. We travel here every year to a friend’s house, which is nestled in the center of town. It seems like the backyards of the entire town are filled with family, friends, fires and cookouts. Kids run about squealing and dogs roam about looking for dropped morsels.
Each year we make new friends, and we reunite with old ones. The backyard fires go from a tame campground size, to a get out the garden hose or should-we-call-the-fire-dept size. Fireworks are lit off randomly from different houses. Tables of food overflow. Conversations and laughter fill the air. This year it rained during the day but the weather in the evening was stellar – in the 60’s and a light breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay.
Later in the evening, we all leave the backyards and meander down the street to the Americanism Center. This is where the latter part of the day’s events are held. A band plays, drinks and food are served, games are played. As darkness falls, it’s time for fireworks to finish off the evening.
Ka-boom! The sky lights up and begins to fill with accumulated fog from the fireworks, as more and more go off. The marvelous smell of gunpowder fills the air. My eyes see spots from the sudden contrast against the darkness. We stand faces upturned, feeling the reports pound in our chest.
After a brief, but intense grand finale, the Flag Day celebration is over.
I must admit, I’m quite flabbergasted how any American-born citizen could participate in flag-burning or other forms of disrespect. To me it’s the equivalent of looking in the mirror and hating yourself. We Americans are family whether we care to admit it or not. And there will always be those family members that don’t get along.
As Americans, the flag means something a little different to each of us. It could mean freedom to one, sacrifice to another, or even oppression to someone else, but nonetheless, the American flag is the symbol of us.
Happy Flag Day, America.