Forestville students participate in Flag Day ceremony

FORESTVILLE – Elementary students came together with parents, faculty and staff to celebrate the flag’s birthday this week at Forestville High School auditorium. Children exhibited patriotic spirit as they came in with their red, white, and blue shirts singing and having fun.

“We are here to honor our flag, our country, and all the brave men and women who have served and are serving today,” coordinator of the assembly, Patricia Miller, said.

The program began with a color guard ceremony by American Legion member Brian Schneider, Girl Scout Jenna Howes, and Boy Scout Sam Reuben. Students of the week Madison Sliwinski and Isabel Hahl lead the crowd with the Pledge of Allegiance. Following the pledge was a singing of the Star Spangled Banner by members of Forestville High School’s a capella group.

During the program, fifth-grader Hailey Halvorsen played the role of Betsy Ross and spoke to the crowd about the role Ross played in history. It hasn’t been proven that Ross made the first American flag, according to Miller. But she was one of the first, and she made many more.

Born in the year 1752 in Philadelphia, Ross learned how to sew in school. She sewed covers for furniture with her husband John. Ross continued to sew throughout her life, sewing flags for the government.

“One day in the year 1776, George Washington and two others came to my house,” Halvorsen said. “They had a design for a flag and they asked me to sew it. The flag had stripes alternating seven red and six white. There were also 13 stars in the circle, each star having six points.”

Fifth-grader Deven Robinson portrayed the Father of Flag Day, Bernard Cigrand. On June 14, 1885, the 19-year-old school teacher placed a flag in a bottle on his desk, and asked the students to write an essay about what the flag meant to them. Even though he went on to be a dentist, he spent his life dedicated to the flag.

Following the acts, Chautauqua County Commander of the Legion Henry Linc, and co-chair of the Flag Education program in Chautauqua County John Miga talked about the program and the educational experience kids receive. Miga also talked about the essay contest, “What the Flag Means to Me.” Twenty students are selected; 10 in the northern part of the county and 10 in the southern part. From there, the final ten students are chosen.

As Miga noted, “Once again, Forestville shined.” Fourth-grader Thade Taylor placed fifth in the county and was awarded a certificate for his achievement. Following his award, Thade read his speech.

“The United States flag is a symbol of our nation’s strength and immunity,” Thade said. “To me, the flag represents the bravery and courage of the people of the U.S. They have risked their lives and offered their service – to protect and defend our rights and freedom.”

The Forestville Knitting Club, consisting of fifth and sixth graders, teachers, and community members, presented a quilt made for World War II veteran, Bob Bowker. His brother, Chum Bowker, was in attendance and accepted the gift. Chum Bowker, like his brother, fought in World War II.

“I’m very happy to accept this beautiful quilt,” Bowker said. “I’m very proud of these kids for taking the time to do this.”

President of the Blue Star Mothers – New York Chapter Four Susan Rowley also spoke to the audience about items students made that have been shipped to troops around the globe. Rowley told the children that written letters are the number one gifts that the troops like to receive. She urged the students in attendance to keep writing.

The performance of “Sing America, Sing” by Mrs. Gier’s third- and fourth- grade chorus and the Color Guard retreat concluded the ceremony. The crowd stood while students and faculty placed their right hand over their hearts to show respect.

Miller thanked the people who helped put together the ceremony, including the American Legion, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the elementary band and chorus, and the Blue Star Mothers.

This year’s flag ceremony will be the last for Miller, as she will be retiring at the end of the school year. She started the program four years ago, and it was a small tribute to the flag. Since then, the program has grown into a full production.

“I’ve been here for 22 years, and I’ve loved every single minute of it,” Miller said. “This program is my baby, and I hope somebody continues it after I leave – the knitting club and Flag Day. I greatly appreciate everyone who has been a part of it.”