SPARTA, NJ – Flag Day was celebrated in a big way on Friday at Sparta Town Hall.  Following a tradition established as part of their charter in 1908, the Sparta Elks Lodge 2356 shared their annual Flag Day celebration with the community.

Several organizations were represented with banners and flags on the plaza in front of town hall, under a large flag suspended from the Sparta Fire Department’s ladder truck, joined by members of the community of all ages.

Sparta boy scouts presented the colors to start the evening’s events, with an introduction from Past District Deputy Elks Pete Appaluccio.  Theresa Pedoto sang the National Anthem. 

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With the sun beginning to set and a gentle breeze kicked up, just enough to give life to the myriad of flags on the plaza, the opening prayer was offered by Past Exhalted Ruler Lowell Carhart.

Elks Exalted Ruler Jennifer Appaluccio explained history of the Stars and Stripes.

A history of the evolution of the American flag was depicted in word and song and demonstrated by Sparta scouts bearing the flags as they were discussed.  The processed up the sidewalk, presented in the center of the plaza and stood on the steps, creating a tableau of standards fluttering in the breeze.

Appaluccio announced noteworthy guests New Jersey Senator Steven Oroho, Sussex County Clerk Jeff Parrott, Chairman of Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority John Drake, Deputy Mayor Christine Quinn, Councilman Dan Chiarariello, Councilman Davis Smith, Councilman Jerry Murphy and Sparta Recreation Director Jeanne Montemarano.

The Commander of the Sparta VFW Pete Litchfield and several members participated in the event, carrying flags of the branches of the military, American Flag, Flag of New Jersey and POW-MIA flag.

First Responders represented Sparta Fire Department, Sparta Police Department and Sparta Ambulance Squad.  Chief Neil Spidaletto, Det. Lt. Terrence Mulligan and Det. Sgt. Jeff McCarrick participated in the ceremony carrying the New Jersey flag and American Flags.

Knights of Columbus from Saint Kateri and Our Lady of the Lake were represented.  Members of Sussex County chapter of National Alliance on Mental Health or NAMI, Veterans in Support of NAMI, members of the Sparta Historical Society, members of Trout Unlimited.

The gathering joined in a the singing of "God Bless America."

“This flag symbolizes our home that is free because of the brave,” Quinn said.  She talked about the meaning of the colors; “red for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence and blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice.”

The Sparta Elks Lodge members took turns performing the aspects of the annual ceremony.  Pete, Jennifer and Anthony Appaluccio, Eveline Toldi, Jodi Stirnweis and Art Murch took turns at the podium.  Gil Gibbs and Marianne Dilworth helped to organize the event. 

John Appaluccio closed the evening as the sun dropped below the treeline, with a poem "I am Old Glory."

“Thank you for this beautiful ceremony for our beautiful flag,” Oroho said.