(Editor's note: On Tuesday evening, organizers of the "Cost of Freedom" tribute and Hometown Hero Banner Program decided to delay all events for one week due to flooding concerns from heavy rain. Updates will be announced in the coming days.)
LOCK HAVEN - The downtown got a glimpse of the new Hometown Hero banners last week.
The tributes to veterans and troops were installed on lightpoles by volunteers, then "veiled" with plastic by the Young Marines and volunteers. All 420 banners will be unveiled after a ceremony Saturday morning.
Julia Boileau, a Hometown Hero Banner Program volunteer, shows some of the banners bearing the emblems of military service branches.
WENDY STIVER/THE EXPRESS
Most of the banners bear an eye-catching photograph of a veteran or soldier, along with his or her name, branch and era of service, and the sponsors' names.
Those who caught the preview during their installation were struck by the new design. The bright colors are one of the hallmarks of this 2011 series of banners, according to Downtown Manager Maria J. Boileau.
A total of 455 individual veterans and soldiers are honored on 411 banners, some of them featuring two generations, Boileau said. One shows the faces of four brothers.
"We will see beautiful pictures from all different eras," she said.
The Hometown Hero Banner Program Unveiling Ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the J. Doyle Corman Amphitheatre and will be held rain or shine.
During the ceremony, 16 veterans and their families will unveil their banners atop the amphitheatre, and 16 banners from the previous round will be officially returned.
The rest of the banners that have flown since 2009 have been cleaned and wrapped and will be available for pickup immediately following the ceremony.
Gunnery Sergeant Ben L. Rickert, U.S. Marine Corps, retired, is the master of ceremonies. He represents the Bitner-Bechdel American Legion Post at Beech Creek, which has "stepped to the plate every year to help us," said Boileau.
Guest speakers are Army Maj. Gen. Frederick B. "Ben" Hodges and Col. Lorraine Breen, Chief of Staff for the Undersecretary of Defense for Health Affairs.
Welcoming remarks will be made by State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven; Gail Nestlerode, past president of Downtown Lock Haven Inc.; Lock Haven Mayor Richard P. Vilello Jr. and Clinton County Commissioners Chairman Adam Coleman.
Also participating will be vocalist Elaine Barth; the Fair Play Brass Band; bugler Wayne Peer; Rev. Kenneth Lynn, retired Army chaplain (major); and the 82nd Airborne Division Honor Guard, Harrisburg Chapter.
Downtown Lock Haven Inc. sponsors the banner program and is co-sponsoring the ceremony with the Clinton County Office of Veterans Affairs.
The amphitheatre at East Water and Jay streets is wheelchair accessible. The parking lot behind the courthouse will be reserved for handicap parking. (The farmers market that usually sets up there will move to Vesper Street.)
A printed program will appear in The Express on Thursday and also will be distributed at the ceremony. The free, commemorative publication includes pictures of each of the 2011 banners and a map showing where each is located. It is sponsored by the Bitner-Bechdel American Legion, the Clinton County Community Foundation and the state Department of Community and Economic Development's Tourism Destination Marketing Initiative.
After the ceremony, which should last about an hour and a half, families are encouraged to unveil their banner and spend time in the downtown and along the Riverwalk viewing all the banners.
Veterans and families who participated in the 2009 Hometown Hero Banner Program may pick up their banner at the Masonic Temple at East Main and Grove streets at that time. Runners will be stationed in front of the Masonic building to help anyone with disabilities. The masons are also holding a chicken bar-be-que in the Temple at that time.
Those picking up a banner will have to sign for it.
Hometown Hero T-shirts and polo shirts will be sold there by the Rotary Club of Downtown Lock Haven. The club also plans to sell shirts in front of the courthouse, on the corner of Jay and Water streets.
NEW FOR 2011
"We have seen a real growth in the banner program," the downtown manager said.
Not only have more communities contacted her office asking for information, but more individual families are banner sponsors this year.
What started in 2008 with 367 banners representing more than 400 soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines grew in 2009 to 511 more banners, with photos of more than 525 veterans and active duty personnel.
Including the 455 photos in this new round, the program has honored close to 1,400 veterans and troop members.
Veterans from World War II comprise the largest number of banners in the new round, numbering 168.
Close behind are 167 veterans of the Vietnam War.
Also shown on banners are 60 Korean War veterans, 35 veterans of the Global War on Terror, 30 Cold War veterans, and others from the Gulf War, Desert Storm - even World War I.
"Their stories are just as touching as in 2008," Boileau said. "It doesn't get old. Every one of them is unique, and each one has a story."
Although there are fewer banners in this round than in the last one, more will be displayed in the downtown, she said.
The banner poles on the Riverwalk also have been changed so the banners will face the walkers, instead of the water and the street, and walkers won't have to crane their necks as they pass by to enjoy the display, Boileau said.
Other banners bear the seal of a branch of the military, including the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines, and will be displayed on the levee Riverwalk.
"Every year the program has a different flare," the downtown manager said. "Last time, it was the size of the project with 511 banners. This year, it is the colorful, eye-catching banner design."
Separately, Highland Cemetery volunteers will conduct historic walking tours. Participants are asked to dress appropriately and be prepared to walk on inclines. Tours will be at 6 p.m. Friday; 1 and 6 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Two special banners are dedicated to the Vietnam National Memorial.
Express Design Editor Bill Crowell's artistic interpretation, which won the design contest for these special banners, features the names of the 16 military members from Clinton County who lost their lives during that conflict.
The banners will be displayed next to the traveling replica of the Vietnam memorial this weekend - known as "The Cost of Freedom" tribute - before being moved to lightpoles downtown.
This is the largest traveling replica of the national memorial, and it will be available for the public to view this Thursday through Sunday on East Water Street as part of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute. The displays will extend for several blocks and include tributes to every war in the nation's history. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday.
One of the displays focuses on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and a "Light the Levee Ceremony" is planned at the amphitheatre on Sunday, the 10th anniversary.
The traveling tribute's visit is being co-sponsored by Clinton County Veterans Affairs, The Express, the Clinton County Historical Society and Downtown Lock Haven Inc.
For more information about the traveling tribute, call the Veterans Affairs office at 570-893-4339. To learn more about the Hometown Hero Banner Program, call Downtown Lock Haven Inc. at 570-748-1576.