SOMERVILLE, NJ The Somerville Elks are hosting their annual salute to America, patriotism and the American Flag June 15 on the green adjacent to the historic Somerset County Courthouse on East Main Street, beginning at 5 p.m.
The Flag Day Country Music Festival features “Big Hix,” a country/western tribute cover band that takes the stage at 7 p.m. for a free 90-minute concert, performing songs by Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert and other contemporary Nashville stars, as well as choice old-school classics from the golden age of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.
Donations for care packages that will be shipped to U.S. troops deployed overseas will be collected by volunteers from Operation Shoebox New Jersey, a non-profit volunteer organization based in Somerville and Hillsborough that has shipped more than 140,000 care packages overseas since 2005.
As part of its ongoing fundraising efforts, OPSHBX NJ will sell prints of a 91-year-old oil painting depicting two iconic images, the American Eagle and 48-star American flag. Measuring 20-by-28 inches, the original painting was done in 1927 by Gerard F. Hirsch, the father of OPSHBX NJ founder Rod Hirsch, when he was 11 years old.
Now in its fifth year, the festival will also feature vintage fire trucks, military vehicles, re-enactors from eras past, a scavenger hunt, games, food vendors, Boy Scouts, a few speeches from elected officials, topped off by a big crowd and a giant American flag waving in the wind over Main Street and you’ve got all the ingredients for a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
The annual celebration begins on a serious note, with a Naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens living in Somerset County on the steps of the courthouse. There will also be an interactive scavenger hunt for children to find prizes among the exhibitors, and they will also be entertained by carnival-style games and activities hosted by the Somerville/Bridgewater YMCA and others.
That will be followed by a Flag Day ceremony conducted by members of Somerville Elks Lodge #1068, with more flag ceremonies, a salute to U.S. veterans and a re-enactment of U.S. Marines planting the American flag on Mt. Suribachi, Feb. 23, 1945, on the Japanese-held Pacific island of Iwo Jima in the closing days of World War II.
Re-enactors from the Revolutionary War and Civil War will also mix with the crowd during the celebration.
The Boy Scouts of America, Raritan Valley District, will be hosting a class for scouts to earn the American Heritage Merit Badge on the courthouse grounds, but advance registration is required.
Further information about the Flag Day celebration and a list of items that can be donated for the care packages can be found online at FlagDayFestival.org