BANGOR, Maine — Katie Bellew clutched a small flag with one hand and her father’s finger with the other as the 11-month-old toddled around the city’s former armory Sunday afternoon. She seemed oblivious to the more than 50 people gathered for Bangor’s annual Flag Day celebration.
Her father, U.S. Army Sgt. Forrest W. Bellew, 28, of Bangor understood the significance of the day. To mark it, he brought the 8-year-old flag he has carried around with him on two tours in Iraq and other countries where he has been stationed.
In addition to being Flag Day, Sunday marked the 234th anniversary of the U.S. Army, Bellew said.
A native of Bellingham, Wash., Bellew works as an Army recruiter in Bangor and expects to be in town for another 2½ years.
Old Glory was honored Sunday afternoon with song, music, dance, poetry and prayer at the city’s annual Flag Day ceremony. About 50 people turned out for the 90-minute event that was forced indoors from the waterfront to the former armory that now houses the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department.
Flag Day is celebrated on June 14 because it was on that day in 1777 that John Adams introduced the resolution to the Continental Congress that set the design of the new nation’s flag. Although Betsy Ross is credited with having sewn the first flag, Adam’s resolution described the flag as having “13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation,” according to Chase’s 2009 Calendar of Events.
The Dirigo Wind Band provided the patriotic music for Bangor’s event Sunday. Selections ranged from the “The Star-Spangled Banner” to Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” to John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The Carousel Cloggers, sporting flag-theme top hats, performed a “Patriotic Polka” and students from the Mary Drew School of Dance swung to the Andrews Sisters singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
In addition, students from Gloria Wethrin’s fourth-grade class at the Glenburn School displayed posters they made to honor the flag. Two read essays they had written about the history and the meaning of the flag.
Judy Butler of Eddington attended the ceremony as participant rather than the organizer for the first time in more than 20 years. Butler organized a Flag Day ceremony in 1988 at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building and invited the former U.S. senator to attend.
On Sunday, Butler presented a rose in honor of Smith to Mary Drew, 56, of Orono, who organized the event this year for the first time after she agreed to take over from Butler.
Butler said Sunday that her love and respect for the flag began when she was 5 years old and marching in a Memorial Day parade.
“I was holding the flag,” she recalled after the ceremony. “At one point while I was marching, my daddy came up beside me and said, ‘Hold that flag high.’ He went right along beside me helping me hold up that flag. That’s when I really started to feel the power of the flag.”
Drew said that Flag Day was especially meaningful to her this year because her son, Staff Sgt. Patrick Skall, is leaving for Iraq in two weeks with the members of the Maine Air National Guard.
After the event, Drew said that she was pleased with how Sunday’s program went, but wished more people, especially schoolchildren, could have attended.
“I hope we can get more students involved,” she said looking ahead to next year’s program. “We need to teach them to love the flag and their country as youngsters because they may be called upon to serve as my son has been.”