Sidney's Memorial Day Program

Sidney is home to a unique program called “The Flags of Honor” which originated in 1965. This program originally began as a community effort with members of 13 civic organizations who made the decision to ask members of the community to donate any casket flags from deceased veterans. The organizers were able to obtain 83 flags for the first Memorial Day parade in 1966. Materials and labor were donated to make bins for the flags, agate name plates, flag poles, and people willing to be caretakers of the flags. On Memorial Day the flags were displayed in the original Nutter Park located on 4th St. SE and a grand parade through Sidney included members of the community carrying the flags. Veterans’ Day was also the sight of the parade of casket flags. During the remainder of the year the flags were stored in the basement of City Hall until 1989.

By 1975, most of the original organizers of the Flags of Honor had died and the number of flags became too numerous for the original caretakers, the World War 1 Ladies Auxiliary. The Ladies Auxiliary VFW (now VFW Auxiliary since 2015 as men can now join) began the job of caretakers for the 200 flags. It soon became apparent that the job was more efficient with only a couple people. The storage area in the basement of City Hall was being overcrowded and had problems with humidity.

In the mid ‘80s efforts began to find a new home for the “Flags of Honor” and several years later it became a reality. The entire facility is located in what was called Central Park, now Veterans Memorial Park, and consists of public bathrooms, a stage area, a concessions area, and a storage room for the City. This was completed with the help of several different organizations. Community members were asked for financial and labor donations to make the existing Flag Room area a reality. Many hours were spent planning and painting the room, moving the flags, and making new name plates for the flags. The City of Sidney assisted in installing the cabinets. The first program at the new facility was in 1989 with 289 flags and enough cabinets to house them until more funds were raised.

The Flags of Honor room is humidity controlled and is now home to over 650 flags behind glass doors. Once a year the flags are rearranged in alphabetically order. Because of the number or flags, approximately 130 flags are displayed in Veterans Park on Memorial Day. Various organizations have made it possible for new benches in front of the stage area, and sidewalks. The park is now called Veterans Memorial Park and a new statue of former Gov. Donald Nutter, a Sidney native, greets visitors to the park. Gov. Nutter’s flag is one of the 650 flags on display.

In 2014, another major project was completed to increase the availability of space for more flags. Cabinets were built on top of the original cabinets and now display the 141 flags representing veterans from the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and WW1. These flags are no longer flown outside.

Sidney is very proud to have the Lions Club help with posting a representation of these flags beginning at 7 a.m. on Memorial Day and take them down about 4 p.m. that evening. The rotation of displayed flags allows for a complete cycle every 4 years. Flags not flown, but are not in the retired section, can be checked out and carried folded or on a pole for the parade and refolded after the parade. The VFW has a Memorial Day program and service at the stage after the parade. A picnic in the park follows the program.

The program is funded entirely by donations. Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation or to donate their flag can take it to City Hall with the necessary information. The 5th grade classes tour the facility annually. Private tours can be arranged by contacting Violet Tharp, 406-488-1173 or 406-489-1234; or Margaret Bradley 406-488-4613 or 406-489-1535.

 

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