Hun­dreds turn out for col­or­ful Flag Day concert days be­fore sum­mer break

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - Front Page - By Cas­san­dra Day

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?”

Cas­san­dra Day / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

Cas­san­dra Day / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Cromwell po­lice took part in Edna Stevens School’s Flag Day ob­ser­vance.

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