RED, WHITE AND BLUE
Hundreds turn out for colorful Flag Day concert days before summer break
CROMWELL — The lawn of Edna C. Stevens Elementary School was awash in a swarm of little ones bedecked out in their inspired outfits of red, white and blue Wednesday morning, all marking Flag Day a day early.
The country’s colors were reflected in 485 students — the girls in skirts, ruffled and tiered dresses and bracelets, complete with patriotic head bows, with one even in leggings: one leg blue and the other red and white, striped like a barbershop pole.
The boys were similarly clothed in American flag, USA and other graphic T-shirts. Several who didn’t have Old Glory-themed attire were still determined to dress for the occasion in red Adidas and Nike shirts. One even wore an “United States of AWESOME” shirt.
As the last day of school Friday loomed and a summer of fun awaited, spending an hour of the morning outdoors — though it was overcast — pleased adults and children alike. Principal Lucille DiTunno said Thursday, the true Flag Day, had been reserved for the rain date.
But no postponement was required as music teacher Karen Chapman led the nearly 500 students from a fourinch platform on the grass in front of the massive assemblage of grade schoolers, something she said she accomplishes “very systematically — with great love and patience.
“You have to give attention to the detail for them. They have a great love for the country and are so excited to be able to express it,” said Chapman, who shared an impression of the weeks of lead-up to the observation, during which she heard the strains of “God Bless America” and other tunes echoing throughout the halls as some kids headed to the cafeteria; others to board the bus home.
“The families would tell me they would bring (the music) home with them and they would sing it at the dinner table. They were teaching it to their younger brothers and sisters, so it became a community event,” she said.
The Flag Day event has been held at the school for over 35 years.
“Many of the parents, if they grew up in Cromwell, they all did Flag Day. So this is the next generation,” Chapman said.
“We say the Pledge every morning in circle time meeting. They made some little hats and we talked about what the stars and stripes mean,” said pre-K teacher Maureen Mandeville. “They love wearing the red, white and blue.”
The children were allowed to choose by class a poem or song to recite that had special meaning for them, said second-grade teacher Krista Matuskiewicz.
“The symbolism of the flag, making them aware of that and understanding what the flag represents — the colors, the meaning — that’s important because they didn’t know any of it,” she added.
Reading teacher Amanda Lubin watched the children display their school spirit and unity as all celebrated together.
“It’s the end of the year, and having those moments together before some of them go on to (Woodside Intermediate School), and others entering first grade — it’s a great way to show our support for the country,” she said as one girl traipsed past in a flowing blouse that, when her arm extended, revealed a fullsize flag.
“This is the largest turnout that I’ve seen, and I’ve been coming for a while,” said Town Manager Anthony Salvatore, as he stood by a group of veterans and police officers holding the various flags solemnly. “As a veteran, it means a lot. I think it’s extremely important they learn that at a young age.”
“Kids get so excited: the colors, the flag. It just brings them a lot of pride and gives me a lot of pride, too, to see the dedication of the children,” said Mayor Enzo Faienza, whose son went to ECS.
State Rep. Christie Carpino, whose kindergartner was among the singers, remarked at how wellattended the event was.
“The families so look forward to celebrating with their kids — but I’d come here anyway,” she added, laughing with gusto. “The kids practice so hard. It’s phenomenal,” Carpino added.
One young man slowly waved his flag in time to the recording of “America the Beautiful” piping through the speakers, adding a note of drama to the assembly.
Beaming parents and other relatives took in the line of students, their tiny hands enthusiastically bearing little flags, as they fidgeted, bursting with energy, but managed to remain in place.
“They get really excited to hear the next grade-level song. They know that’s in store for them. They have this this affinity for ‘God Bless America.’ They just love that song. At that young age, it stirs something in them,” Chapman said.
“We are here to honor this beloved symbol of our country — a promise of our future and a reminder of our past,” said Luke, reading his poem.
“The stars and stripes are a symbol of our freedom and a reminder of the wonderful country we live in. Betsy Ross made one of the first American flags. As our country has grown, the original flag has changed from 13 to 50 stars to represent the 13 colonies,” read another.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the first-graders serenaded the audience with a rendition of “America,” second-graders sang “When the Flag Goes by” and the Main Street Singers children’s choir launched into “America the Beautiful.”
“By the time you get to ‘God Bless America,’ and you have 500 children singing, the staff, 300 to 400 guests, you have close to 850, 900 people singing,” Chapman said at the conclusion. “When are you going to have that opportunity to sing with 900 other people in a ceremony like this?”
The entire Edna C. Stevens Elementary School student body, 485 pre-kindergarten through second-grade children, sang songs, read poems they had written, and took part in other festivities Wednesday morning for the annual Flag Day observance in Cromwell.
ECS Music Teacher Karen Chapman leads the first-graders as they sing “America” Wednesday morning in observance of Flag Day. Officials estimated that between veterans, the color guard, town leaders, staff, faculty and relatives, total attendance at the ceremony was about 900.
Cromwell police took part in Edna Stevens School’s Flag Day observance.