'Evening in the Park' celebrates Armed Forces Day
By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., May. 26, 2011
The town celebrated Armed Forces Day with an Evening in the Park on Saturday, May 21, complete with fireworks at dusk. The annual event was sponsored by the Patriotic Commission, a town commission established to recognize, accommodate and foster pride and patriotism among South Windsor’s residents. “It turned out beautiful,” said Patriotic Commission Chair Kent Carlson. “It was our best event ever.”
Evening in the Park was a family event, complete with bounce house and slide, mobile petting zoo, face-painting, grilled hamburgers and ice cream. Families brought blankets and spread out their picnic baskets, while listening to the music and waiting for the fireworks display.
The South Windsor Community Band performed several American classics, along with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “God Bless America” and the “Armed Forces Salute.” According to Band President Gary Dahms, the band performs four or five times over the summer, plus a holiday concert. Dahms said it is unusual for a town to have its own band, and approximately 65 percent of the band members are South Windsor residents. “We’re always looking for new members,” added Dahms, who noted that auditions are not required for interested musicians. The band rehearses from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays at Pleasant Valley Elementary School. For more information about the South Windsor Community Band, visit the website swband.org.
Both the Marines and the Army National Guard had officers and equipment at the Evening in the Park. Residents could often be seen shaking the officers’ hands and thanking them for their service. “Our unit has always come here,” said Captain George Duggan of the Hartford Army unit. “We enjoy it.”
Several veterans’ service organizations were at the event, including the Varca-Lechausse Chapter 17 of the Disabled American Veterans, based in Manchester. According to Chapter Commander Mark Rivard, the DAV offers a free service to any veteran to help ensure that the veteran knows what benefits are available or to assist with any claims, as needed. As there is not a chapter in South Windsor, residents are welcome to contact the Manchester chapter by calling Mark Rivard at 860-933-6877 or contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.
The American Legion Post 133 was also represented. The Legion is already busy at work on Wreaths Across America, to be held in December. “We’re still shooting for getting a wreath on every veteran’s grave,” said Roger Anderson, adjunctant for the Post.
According to Gary Waterhouse, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10251, events such as an Evening in the Park give the VFW an opportunity to tell veterans how the VFW can assist, for example, with coordinating benefits through the Veterans Administration. The VFW also responds to invitations from schools to provide programs for the children to teach about patriotism.
The Patriotic Commission also sponsors the Memorial Day parade and ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Park. At the ceremony, the winners of the annual student essay contest are recognized, one from each school level - elementary, middle and high school. For Memorial Day, the Patriotic Commission also coordinates the placement of more than 400 flags by Boys Scouts on the gravesites of military veterans buried in South Windsor cemeteries.
This year’s essay theme for South Windsor residents in grades three through five was “My favorite Connecticut citizen and why,” with Wapping Elementary School fifth-grader Varun Tankala wining first place. Saardhak Bhrugubanda, a third-grader at Orchard Hill Elementary School, won second place, and Orchard Hill fifth-grader Sarah Karasik won third place.
Children in kindergarten through second grade entered posters showing “My favorite place in South Windsor.” Stanley Lu, in first grade at Wapping, won first place. Second place went to Meghan Serignese, a first-grader at Orchard Hill, and Keshav Ramesh, an Eli Terry Elementary School second-grader, took third place.
“What it means to be a citizen of the United States” was the theme for the essay by students in grades six through 12. South Windsor High School sophomore Sebastian Milluzzo won first place. SWHS senior Amanda Makol won second place, and third place went to Anika Makol, an eighth-grader at Timothy Edwards Middle School. All winners received gift cards to Barnes and Noble.
According to Carlson, the Patriotic Commission and the Boy Scouts will be coordinating a flag disposal event on June 14, Flag Day. For more information about the Patriot Commission and the events, visit the website southwindsor.org/Pages/swindsorct_bcomm/patriotic_comm/index.
Correction: Please note that South Windsor will celebrate Trail Day on Sunday, June 5, not on Saturday, June 4, as previously reported. The event will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Major Michael Donnelly Land Preserve, located at 1165 Sullivan Ave., South Windsor.