Island 4th of July Celebrations Highlight History

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Period Games, Music, Salute Offered
By Karen Gould

Interpreters walk among guests at the Star Spangled Fourth of July at Fort Mackinac Saturday, July 4. The event was catered by Grand Hotel and featured music from the Grand Hotel Orchestra. The evening also included period games, music, dancing, a 38-gun salute, and the raising of a 36-foot flag.
Celebrating the birth of the country and recognizing those who fought for American freedom throughout the years were the focus at Fort Mackinac during July 4 celebrations last Saturday.

Simple, yet meaningful programs were offered throughout the day highlighting the military outpost's role in colonial days when the country declared itself independent from British rule.

Honoring soldiers for their service, said Katie Cederholm, curator of education at Mackinac State Historic Parks, "that is what the fort is all about."

In a solemn ceremony, veterans and those currently serving in the armed forces and visiting the fort were asked to join historical re-enactors as they marched across the parade grounds. Visitors applauded. The group stood at attention as a 36-foot-long American flag was raised in front of the Officers' Hill Quarters.

With a 36-foot-long flag draped over their right shoulders, Girl Scouts from southeast Michigan march into Fort Mackinac from the Scout Barracks. Their route takes them along Garrison Road, up the Avenue of Flags, before entering the Revolutionary War era fort. In respect for the flag, the girls do not talk during their hike Saturday, July 4. Girl Scouts carrying the flag include (not in order) Hannah Ortman, Chrissy Starzyk, Jasmine Davis, Emma DiCello, Kella Hayward, Bonnie Brown, Kaitlyn Hayward, Kaera Boyel, Robin Nancarrow, and Kim Hunter. The troop leader assisting the girls (not pictured) is Becky Compton.
One of those veterans was John Strasser, who spent a year in Iraq, continues to serve in the U.S. Army, and is stationed in Indianapolis with the 38th Infantry Division. He was visiting the fort for the first time with his wife, Rachael, and one-yearold daughter, Aaralyn.

He was dressed in uniform, a requirement of his unit when in public on a holiday.

Recognition of soldiers who served at Fort Mackinac and those who have served the country through the years was evident during July 4 events when visiting veterans and those in active duty were offered free admission to the fort and invited to participate in ceremonies. John Strasser (back row, center), was one of those soldiers. He has spent a year in Iraq and continues to serve in the U.S. Army, stationed in Indianapolis with the 38th Infantry Division. Pictured with him are historic reenactors (from left, back row) Jared Little, William Reed, Geoff Woodcox, Craig Wilson; (front) Brett Yzquierdo, Shawn McKeon, Jake Sim, and Ryan Thurst.
People on the Island, he said, had been coming up to him all day shaking his hand and thanking him for his service. He did not expect that, he said.

First established as Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, the fort was moved by the British to the less vulnerable Mackinac Island during the American Revolution. Today, it is Michigan's only remaining American Revolutionary era fort.

Visitors sought spots on the porch of the Soldiers Barracks, on benches, and steps to view reenactments of military activity during the 1700s. The programs were offered by historic interpreters dressed in military uniform of the time. A popular reenactment of the day was of a court martial.

Carefully tucking corners of the small flag are Girl Scouts Katelyn Boyce (left) and Mady Sykes of Troop 2756 from Royal Oak. A 36-foot flag is being raised by other members of their troop during ceremonies at Fort Mackinac Saturday, July 4.
"It's a nice day, it's a picnic atmosphere, but it's meaningful because of the flag and the patriotic tunes," said Ms. Cedarholm.

"You hear people singing, they stand for the veterans that come and visit. All of that combined into one is very meaningful."

Brett Yzquierdo from Holland, Michigan, a second year historic interpreter at the fort, periodically stood overlooking the harbor from the porch of the Officers Wood Quarters. He played patriotic music on a fife.

Cannon-firing demonstrations were offered, and a 38- rifle salute recognizing each state in the Union at that time. Enthusiastic visitors cheered as their state was called and the rifle fired.

"For all of the people who volunteer and work at the fort," said Ms. Cedarholm, "it's their favorite day of the year."

Historic interpreters visited with fort guests, answered questions, posed for photographs, sang, played music, and organized colonial games and dances within the fort walls on the parade grounds.

In the evening, red and white checkered table clothes were spread about the grounds as visitors took part in an American Picnic catered by Grand Hotel.

Shannon Larsen, scout coordinator at the fort, said normally each Saturday Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops are in transition, with one troop leaving and another arriving, however, the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan volunteered to arrive early to participate in July 4 events including the flag ceremony.

Girl Scout Emma DiCello, 17, of Livonia, said her friends envoy her for being on the Island and doing the service at the fort.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," she said.

The small flag flying over the parade ground was lowered by the Girl Scouts and the large flag quickly put in place. The bugle sounded as the flag was raised in front of the Officers' Hill Quarters, followed by "The Star Spangled Banner" played on fife.

In the formal ceremony that took place several times Saturday, 10 Girl Scouts marched from the Scout Barracks, along Garrison Road, up the Avenue of Flags, and into the fort with a 36-foot long flag draped over their right shoulders. In respect for the flag, the girls do not talk on their hike to the fort.

"When we're walking over there, we're having this proud feeling," said Girl Scout Hannah Ortman, 18, of Birmingham. "Not everyone gets to do what we are doing today and we know that it's a great honor."

2009-07-11 / Top News

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