BRISTOL - The American flag was the centerpiece of a ceremony at Bristol Elks Lodge 1010 Sunday.
The club’s annual Flag Day celebration brought together city officials, the police and fire departments, veterans organizations and Boy Scouts.
The Elks presented Fire Chief Jay Kolakoski a $1,500 donation following the program, which featured patriotic songs and a historical timeline of the American flag.
“We’re deeply grateful for the outreach the community gives us,” Kolakoski said. “It helps in our protection of the citizens of Bristol.”
He said the money will go toward health and safety initiatives the department is working on, including respiratory gear for fire investigators.
Also awarded were four $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors from Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central high schools.
The ceremony began outside the South Street lodge, where American Legion Post 2 fired three volleys as the flag was raised.
After everyone was seated inside, Dr. Robert Pavalock led the group in singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the club’s parent organization, made the Flag Day ceremony mandatory in 1911. The event is elaborate and solemn, with time-honored songs and the ritualistic laying of a floral bell made of roses, lilies and violets, representing the colors of the flag: red, white and blue.
“To be an Elk is to be an American citizen,” Exalted Ruler Joan Keyoski told the audience. “Who lives for his or her country and is ready to die for it.”
Flag Day Chairman Robert Mosback Jr., a past exalted ruler, discussed the history of the flag and its symbolism, describing how Woodrow Wilson called it “an emblem of our unity.”
Elks National Foundation Chairman William Dutcher Jr. presented the awards to the BFD and shared a little about each of the scholarship recipients. None of the students was present.
Guest speaker was Carol Denehy, a lifelong resident who taught in city schools. She recalled visiting the Elks Lodge many times with relatives throughout her childhood.
“When I was a child in Bristol, it was safe to ride my bicycle from my home on Lake Avenue downtown,” Denehy said. “The Elks Lodge was always a community landmark.”
Her late husband, Jack, founded the city’s nonprofit Memorial Military Museum.
“He was an Irishman with a great sense of humor,” she said. “He loved telling stories.”
She said its was a World War I veteran who lived on the same street as her husband when he was a boy who instilled in him pride for those serving our country.
As an adult, he built the museum, which now has over 3,000 items.
Denehy recognized the Bristol Veterans Council for organizing the placement of new American flags on the grave markers of all 6,000 of the city’s men and women who have died serving their country.
Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and the City Council also attended the ceremony.
“One of the niceties of a community is when you have events like this,” the mayor said. “The pageantry and tradition are really important. I think it’s important for these traditions to be kept alive and passed on to the younger generation.”
According to Keyoski, the Bristol Elks have 894 members. She’s hoping to welcome younger people to the organization in the near future.
“We’re hoping to reach 1,000 members,” she said.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.