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Friday, 13 June 2014 10:17

Port Call To Follow Flag Day Parade

By Brian Cremo | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Flags will be flying high as the red, white and blue will be proudly abound in downtown Saratoga Springs for the 46th annual Saratoga Wilton Elks Lodge No. 161 Flag Day parade Saturday, June 14.

Saturday’s parade is set to begin at North Broadway around noon before continuing down Broadway and heading into Congress Park, which will be the location of the first ever Port Call Saratoga Springs, celebrating the Navy sailors of Saratoga County.

Five divisions of approximately 90-100 groups will be marching this year.

One of the largest annual parades in Saratoga County, the streets are sure to be packed with American flags—2,000 of which will be provided by Roohan Realty—as marchers, drivers, fire engines, veterans, kids, the Color Guard and more pass by.

After years of unofficially celebrating the holiday, it was made official by President Woodrow Wilson in a presidential proclamation in 1916. It was finally made “National Flag Day” through an act of Congress by President Harry Truman in 1949. 

In conjunction with the Saratoga Navy Command, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce has started the Port Call event, which will reflect traditions of old.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Ports of Call were when a Navy ship made a stop, whether it was during a sailing itinerary or coming home, allowing the sailors some R&R with residents at that particular port.

Saturday’s meet-and-greet is modeled the same.

Navy sailors in white will be marching in the parade followed by joining their families and loved ones in Congress Park, where there will be a host of activities.

With the parade beginning at noon, the post-parade ceremony and activities are expected to begin around 1:45 p.m., starting with the Saratoga Springs band playing military hymns. The Elks Club will also present a 30-40 minute flag ceremony around this time. There will also be activities for kids and free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s afterwards.

Earlier this year, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Member Services Denise Romeo was having a conversation with Commander Vince Garcia about the significance the Navy has in Saratoga County and the economic impact they provide.

 “A lot of that goes unnoticed,” Romeo said. “It kind of has never been front and center. But it was [Garcia’s] feeling that it was important that we introduce the Navy and the role they play here to our community and to show the sailors that there is a community that supports them.”

U.S. Navy operations in Saratoga County make up a $500 million annual economic impact. That’s more than the Saratoga Race Course ($200 million) and more than Skidmore ($400 million).

“It’s one of our largest impacts, so for me it’s really important to recognize that impact,” Romeo said. “And it’s been here. The Navy has been here for many years. I think Commander Garcia played a huge role in bringing this to attention in looking to the numbers that are staggering, and we have run with it because it’s important for the community as a whole to understand that economic impact and show or gratitude.”

Garcia has since been re-assigned to San Diego. Current Commander Jim Edwards and Commander Elvis Mikel will be the Grand Marshalls of the parade on Saturday.

While Port Call Saratoga Springs is specifically in reference to the U.S. Navy, Romeo added that all military branches will be remembered at this time.

 “It’s a way to celebrate the Navy and sailors here, but it’s a full blown military event and appreciation event,” Romeo said. “Whatever we can do to help make them know they are supported in a community that cares and respects what they do every day, this is just a small thing.It’s truly, truly important.”

Participating local businesses will be providing “sliders” throughout Saturday in support of the Navy presence in Saratoga County.  Sliders were developed as a Navy term for burgers that were provided weekly. The burgers served on ships were typically very greasy and known for “sliding” off trays as the boat swayed and rolled in high seas.

The tradition of serving sliders on a weekly basis continues to this day. It is often the lunch that sailors look forward to most each week.

On Saturday, there will also be discounts available at participating local downtown restaurants and retail stores to military personnel, active or veteran, with military identification.

“I’m the daughter of a veteran and a mother of a veteran, so for me this day is something we should do almost every day,” Romeo said. “We are who we are as a nation because of the brave men and women who step up in the role. We are very fortunate in Saratoga County to have a significant military facility that not only brings a huge economic impact to our community, but to also have them here and trained for one of the most important jobs that the military has, which is obviously to keep the rest of us safe so we are able to sleep at night. They are due our upmost respect.”

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