There are many things in life that are simply taken for granted, the familiar sights and sounds of our daily existence, the people we see every day, the places we've been to a thousand times. Then one day the familiar takes on a new meaning and we soon realize that the only significant change has come from within. Our eyes are suddenly wide open.
The sights, sounds and events of the 2001 Tiffin - Seneca Heritage Festival have been in the works for almost a year. The only significant change has been moving Heritage Village to Hedges-Boyer Park. But the incredibly tragic events of the week prior have brought about a change in all Americans. Americans watched in disbelief, and the nation stood still for several days. That which was intended to break us has only made us stronger and more patriotic. Today the largest selling item in the country, far and away, is the American Flag. It was this new patriotism that was so strikingly in evidence at this year's festival, and a people in need of an outlet showed it freely. The following related experiences are my own.
Friday night began with a high school football game between Tiffin Calvert and Hopewell Loudon in Bascom. Each fan was met at the gate by a member of the Lions Club, and each was presented with an American Flag. Many fans clutched the little flags in their hands throughout the game as they cheered their teams.
After the game we headed for downtown Tiffin where the festival was already well under way. The main beer tent was located across from the Courthouse in the city parking lot. Shortly a Beatles tribute band entered the stage dressed in their Sergeant Pepper costumes and played an excellent set of music from the Beatles later years, much to the delight of the large crowd.
The next morning came, and the news continued to tell of the aftermath of our national tragedy. Extraordinary stories of incredible heroism in New York City dominated the airwaves. In Washington it seemed as though the lines between the 2 major parties had been erased, and our nation continued to show it's unity and resolve.
In downtown Tiffin the Heritage Parade was viewed by a record crowd. As usual the parade was dominated by the red, white and blue, but the reaction to anything that resembled the American Flag was greater than ever.
In the afternoon we visited Heritage Village at Hedges. The Seneca Muzzleloaders, reenactors of the hunters and trappers of the colonial era Northwest Territory, were as extraordinary as usual. Other displays included Michigan and Ohio Civil War reenactors, pioneer era craftsmen, historical and genealogical societies and many other interesting exhibits. Pictured below are several others.
This gentleman is a Lincoln imitator.
Seeing my "Battle of Antietam 135th Anniversary" T-shirt, he commented about General McClellan's slowness to act.
He said, "I asked McClellan if he had an army I could borrow, since he isn't using it."
In the evening hours the crowd at the main beer tent was even larger than the night before. Kalabash, the popular Put-In-Bay band, was the featured act and they presented a fun loving and much enjoyed brand of rock & roll.
Sunday morning was spent in helping with the cooking of 230 barbecued chicken halves at the Knights of Columbus home on West Perry St. As the day progressed into the afternoon hours, a large crowd converged on the Duck Inn on West Market St. In progress was a Karaoke contest.
In time, a blond haired bearded man of about 40 came to the microphone to sing his chosen song. Unceremoniously he began to sing.
"If tomorrow all the things were gone
I'd worked for all my life,
And I had to start again
with just my children and my wife,
I'd thank my lucky stars
to be living here today"
Spontaneously the crowd began to join in, and they grew in volume as the singer approached the chorus. A lump grew in every throat, and several were moved to tears.
"'Cause the flag still stands for freedom
and they can't take that away.
I'm proud to be an American
where at least I know I'm free,
And I won't forget the men who died
who gave that right to me,
And I gladly stand up next to you
and defend her still today,
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God Bless the U.S.A"
This was the most genuinely patriotic display of unity that I have ever witnessed, or been a part of. By popular demand the song was repeated later in the evening, and the result was similar. It was a perfect conclusion to an extraordinary and historic week, and I couldn't help but think that every city in the nation would have benefited from a similar weekend celebration of our heritage, our patriotism and our uniquely American spirit.