Respect for the flag and pride in our country - that is what the city's Flag Day Parade really is all about.
The 29th annual event will be held at 6 p.m. June 14, with registration starting at 5:30 p.m. in city parking lot E, at the corner of Hepburn and West Fourth streets. The parade ends at the base of the flag pole at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Tony "The Flag Man" DiSalvo, president of the Williamsport-Lycoming County Flag Committee, hopes that attendance will double this year.
"We want to try to get all the young kids involved. Last year we had close to 500 people; this year we're hoping for 1,000," DiSalvo said.
DiSalvo, who started the parade almost three decades ago, said his father took patriotism very seriously and served as an inspiration for him. An immigrant from Sicily, DiSalvo's father instilled in his son a strong sense of respect for the flag.
DiSalvo recalls one incident when he was a young boy watching a parade with his father.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Flag Day Parade
WHEN: 6 p.m., June 14 (registration 5:30 p.m.)
WHERE: City parking lot E, intersection of West Fourth and Hepburn streets
"Soldiers from the Army came by carrying the flag. I stayed sitting on the curb as they passed. My father kind of tapped me on the back of the head and explained that when the flag goes by, you need to stand and show respect for your country," DiSalvo said.
It's a lesson he never has forgotten. He has made it his mission to teach people about the flag, proper flag etiquette and the importance of patriotism.
"I remember when I was in school, they used to give us a half-day off for Flag Day. These days, most people don't even know when Flag Day is," DiSalvo said.
He believes it is especially important to teach young children about the flag and what it represents.
"We want to get the kids involved. You need to teach them when they're young to honor their country and respect the flag," he added, noting that the family-friendly event features free flags for those marching as well as contests and prizes.
Dr. William J. Martin, vice president of the committee and senior vice president of the college, said the school was honored to once again host the conclusion of the parade.
"The flag that sits in the entrance of Penn College doesn't belong to the school, it belongs to the entire community," Martin said, explaining that the college functions as the caretaker of the county's flag.
At 30- by 60-feet, Lycoming County's flag is the largest size flag that can be flown on a flag pole, Martin explained. Since the flag's erection in 2001, the flag pole has served as the termination point of the parade. There, a band plays and DiSalvo hosts the parade's closing ceremonies and hands out awards.
It's a good way to get people to notice the flag and, hopefully, donate to the flag committee's endowment fund, organizers said. Martin hopes, with enough donations, the endowment fund will grow to cover the costs of maintaining the flag for many years to come.
The giant flag has several expenses associated with flying it. According to Martin, each flag flies for about five weeks, then must be sent off for repairs. A new flag costs about $3,000. Other expenses include the cost of electricity, so the flag can be flown at night, and flag pole maintenance.
Martin explained that he, DiSalvo and the other members of the committee work year-round to raise enough money to maintain the flag.