Grand old flag tradition continues at Old Settlers on July Fourth

,

By F. Josephine Arrowood
Sun contributor

Among the many Fourth of July celebrations in Leelanau County, one of the longest running may be the Flag Raising Ceremony held at the century-plus Old Settlers Picnic Grounds in Burdickville. Sponsored by the Glen Lake Women’s Club, chairwoman Josephine Zara promises “an old-fashioned, country flag-raising,” beginning at 10 o’clock with services by local Cub Scout Pack #111. Retired United States Navy officer Peter Van Nort of Glen Arbor, who served with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, will give the address, “We Are the People.” Soprano Susan Pocklington of Empire will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner,” accompanied by Maple City’s Patrick Niemisto on keyboard, Amy Peterson on flute, and David Watt on drum, both of Glen Arbor. A community sing-along, free flags for the children, cookies and lemonade will conclude the event.

Judith Batory of Glen Arbor has been attending the patriotic ritual since 1981, when she and her husband Lou (Glen Arbor’s centenarian) retired to Leelanau County. She says, “My family came up here in 1929 [as seasonal residents], but they didn’t have it back then. I’ve attended many, many times; I’ve never missed, except last summer … It’s a perfectly wonderful occasion, with the dear little Boy Scouts, some of them about two-and-a-half feet high, putting the flag up upside down one year!” She laughs at her own vivid word picture.

“It’s a charming, local occasion that appeals particularly to those of us from metropolitan areas. Lou and I lived in New York City for 40 years. It’s so refreshing: the lovely park scene, people sitting on benches greeting friends. A wonderful scene of peace — what we all came up here for: the essence of small community. It is delightful and rare, a precious thing. The whole thing is so beautifully local, and the ladies of the Glen Lake Women’s Club — of which I am one — baking their cookies and serving lemonade.”

Another lifelong local resident, Dottie Lanham of Burdickville, can’t definitively recall the first ever flag-raising conducted by the Women’s Club, though she has been a member since the 1950s. But she agrees that it may have been the 1970 ceremony, co-chaired by Evelyn Anderson, Mrs. A.G. Pfeiffer, and Connie Binsfeld (then a county commissioner, who would later serve as both state representative and senator before becoming lieutenant governor). In that era, possibly in response to the antiwar movement against the country’s involvement in Vietnam and leading up to the Bicentennial of 1976, there was a vigorously growing, national culture of patriotic expression. Remember flag-themed clothing, a resurgence in quilting, and Colonial Revival décor, among other manifestations?

The first event was a two-part affair, featuring both the morning flag raising and an evening sing-along and flag-lowering. The morning program established what would become the template – with some variations in the order of business, and a changing roll call of Leelanau names both new and familiar — for the next four decades and counting.

Participants were urged to, “Come by land or lake, bring their guests and meet their neighbors,” according to a press release issued by the club. At 10 o’clock, Paul Binsfeld bugled the “Call to Colors,” followed by the raising of Old Glory by the Veterans of World War One, Barracks 403. Everyone sang the national anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Reverend Wayne Lemmen, then serving as pastor of Glen Lake Community Reformed Church in Burdickville, gave an invocation (Mr. Lemmen, who retired in 1985 from the ministry, died in Traverse City earlier this year at age 90). A soloist, Sam Roelofs, sang “God Bless America,” and all assembled finished with an enthusiastic rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Refreshment that year was coffee, while in subsequent years, lemonade and cookies became the norm.

Interestingly, the evening of July Fourth that year saw the return of the community to Old Settlers at 7 p.m., to hear musical entertainment, join in a sing-along, and witness the flag’s lowering to the bugling of “Taps.” Flag etiquette, according to USflag.org, mandates that the flag be “hoisted briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously … It should never fly at night unless properly illuminated.” The Women’s Club program promised that after the flag lowering, there would be “still time to get to Lake Michigan for the fireworks display,”

The featured musicians were the Darlington Trio Plus Two, described as a “professional family combo” who offered “Dixie Land, Pop tunes and old familiar tunes.” Dottie Lanham remembers the Darlingtons well, and notes that the family has been summering on Big Glen Lake at least since the 1920s.

She says, “the family has a cottage just down the road beyond the picnic grounds. Al Darlington is still here, and his late wife Ellen was a very talented pianist.”

In 1973, the Glen Lake High School band, led by Thomas MacNaughton, fondly known as “Mr. Mac”, became a part of the flag raising, and continued for many years. Tony DeFilippo (now a Cedar resident and champion trophy fisherman) bugled in the “Call to Colors,” Boy Scouts bowed to Girl Scouts as flag-raisers, and no speakers addressed the crowd, as a public address system was not yet in place.

In 1976, the Bicentennial added extra oomph to the patriotic flag raising, and at some time in the 1980s, Mr. Mac’s music department colleague Patrick Niemisto joined the fun with the high school’s vocal ensemble. Recently, the musical offerings have been more varied, particularly with the end of the school band’s “marching” element, and the 2011 retirement of Pat Niemisto. Susan Pocklington’s soaring voice was a huge hit at last year’s event, prompting her return, as well as that of the other musical guests Niemisto, Peterson and Watt.

About the continuing annual ritual, Dottie Lanham says, “I know it’s a very popular thing. I go to all of them; I’ve missed very few. We always have a speaker, always decorate the gazebo in flags and banners. Somebody sometimes will come dressed as Uncle Sam; people that come to the ceremony dress in red, white and blue. It’s a real moving program.”

Any readers who have either participated in, or have photos of, past Old Settlers’ Flag Raising ceremonies are encouraged to share their memories with the Glen Arbor Sun. Please email us at Editorial(AT)GlenArborSun(DOT)com.