About the time the hamburgers and potato salad were being digested Thursday, patriotic music began drawing several hundred area residents to Johnstown’s Point Stadium for an evening of Independence Day celebrating.
As the free concert by the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra got into full swing, the number of attendees swelled even more as time approached for the fireworks display, which has for nearly a quarter century culminated this red, white and blue holiday.
The concert follows an annual tradition started in 1989 as commemoration of the 1889 Johns-town Flood, and brings pride and sometimes tears to those who turn out celebrate the birth of the nation.
One white-haired, white bearded Vietnam War era veteran shed tears as taps was played. He stood proudly as the symphony orchestra played the anthem for each military branch.
Under the direction of Maestro Istvan Jaray, the orchestra acknowledged the members of the armed forces of the past and present, honoring them for their service to the country.
For Barb and David Fry of the South Fork area, the evening couldn’t have been much better.
They were accompanied by their son and his wife and their daughter and her husband, all of Virginia.
Four grandchildren, all dressed in red, white and blue attire, brought delighted smiles from those sitting nearby.
Erol Guleyupoglu, 8, his brother, Aydin, 5, and their cousins, Lilly Fry, soon to be 5, and her sister, Megan Fry, 2, waived small flags.
“They enjoy the music, but they really enjoy the fireworks, Barb Fry said.
Ashley Wright, 23, who just returned to Cambria County after completing college in West Virginia, played saxophone in the Forest Hills High School band. She still loves the music, especially that classical sounds.
She was hoping to run into her former band director, who plays with the symphony.
Rain showers moved in about
45 minutes prior to the start of the music but stopped before the first note was struck, with wet stadium bleachers the only evidence left behind.
The 90 minutes of patriotic and well-known musical selections featured audience pleasers such as “God Bless the USA” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” by tenor Danny Conner of Rockwood.
Concert attendees were thrilled with the performance of some of the area’s musically talented younger people who make up the Youth Orchestra Brass Ensemble of the symphony orchestra.
Some of the greatest audience response came when the public was urged to sing along with old-time favorites including “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” “Yor are My Sunshine” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
The poem “A Soldier” was read by Max Fedore, a litany spelling out the strong points of a person in the military, characteristics such as honor, courage, loyalty and strength.
“Next time you see a soldier, remember what they do,” Fedore read. “Thank God for every soldier, thank God for what you do.”
Preparing for this annual concert takes months of preparation for the small symphony staff and the musicians, said Jim Beener, chairman of the symphony trustees.
As in years past, The Tribune-Democrat was the prime advertising sponsor of the event, with about a dozen other financial and medical-related institutions helping to make the event available to everyone.
The city of Johnstown donated the use of the Point Stadium because no admission was charged.
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