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Old Glory Landmark (copy)

The flag is raised on the Fourth of July at the Old Glory Landmark on Thursday. About 1,500 people turned out to enjoy a day of music, food and celebration.

The breeze came seemingly on cue Thursday morning, shaking and shimmering the massive American flag raised above Centennial Park as part of the Capital City Fourth of July Celebration.

Helena's Scout Troop 214 helped raise the flag again this year. Troop leader Doug Wheeler said it was an opportunity to provide service to the country.

"That's a key part of scouting," Wheeler said. "It's great for the boys to be involved in something so patriotic."

Tenderfoot-ranked Sam Klatt said being part of the ceremony was a chance to "show patriotism."

"I thought it was really cool to do it," Klatt said. "I was looking forward to be part of it."

Fellow Tenderfoot Gideon Schulz was enthused with the chance to handle the huge flag as well. "It's a good thing that we could do it," Schulz said. 

"It's not like I was bored," he said.

A Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation helicopter flown by Tal Williams brought the flag to Centennial Park, landing just north of the Old Glory Landmark. Along with the DNRC helicopter, St. Peter's Health and the Helena Fire Department brought an ambulance and a fire truck for the public to hop in and explore during the afternoon's celebration.

Helena Fire Department Battalion Chief Bob Harvey said the firefighters enjoyed the opportunity to meet with people and to let kids explore the massive vehicle. 

"There's a plethora of equipment that's interesting," Harvey said. He said it was important for the fire department to give Helenans a chance to look over what exactly they were paying for.

"This is their equipment," Harvey said. 

Harvey said days like the Fourth of July were a nice break from the normal madness that firefighters deal with on a daily basis. 

"Everybody is laughing and having a good time," Harvey said. 

A few yards away, the Helena Lions Club was serving stacks of aluminum wrapped hot dogs for free. Secretary Dan Sturdy estimated that the club gave out about 1,500 hot dogs every year they'd been involved in the celebration.

"Albertson's donates the food," Sturdy said. 

The Lions group has been around Helena for a long time; since May 3, 1933, in fact. Sturdy said the group focuses on helping people with disabilities, buying glasses and hearing aides and other items for the needy.

Chuck Butler and Robert Henkel, both Old Glory Landmark committee members, said the event has grown every year. Butler, also a member of the Helena Ambassadors, said the first time the Old Glory Landmark committee put together the event, it came together in just a few months. 

"We said let's put it together and we did," Butler said.

Henkel said Helena had long had a Flag Day ceremony on June 14, but the addition of a Fourth of July celebration was brand new. 

"It's been growing every year," Henkel said of the Centennial Park event. He counted some 1,500 people who were partaking in the festivities this year. 

"Last year there were 1,200," Henkel said. 

And over those 1,500 people, in the big blue sky, the American flag drifted back and forth over the crowd listening to jazz, eating hot dogs and enjoying the freedom to sit in the sun and be thankful for the opportunity to live here.

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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