Bessemer community gathers to celebrate heritage
BESSEMER - Bessemer's Downtown Development Authority officially dedicated its Ethnic Commons Park and Trailhead during a ceremony on Wednesday that drew a crowd of hundreds.
The event also celebrated the 200th anniversary of "The Star Spangled Banner," and had a 17-by-25-feet replica of the garrison flag from Fort McHenry.
The original flag, which has 15 stars and 15 stripes, and inspired Francis Scott Key's writing of the anthem, is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. The replica was provided by the Fort McHenry National Park and Shrine in Baltimore, Md.
Kitty Johnson Fisher, an alumna of A.D. Johnston High School, spoke about the replica flag.
"Now, Bessemer did not exist in 1814, the state of michigan did not exist until 1837, but we know that our ancestors who first settled in Bessemer were singing this song with pride in their hearts," Fisher said. "So what better way to celebrate the history of our little town, and to also celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the national anthem, by the raising of our national flag and raising our voices along with the A.D. Johnston High School Choir singing those inspiring words."
The choir sang the lyrics as the Gogebic Range Concert band performed.
The ceremonial ribbon cutting was done by Mayor Butch Semmerling, members of the City Council, and honorary guests Helen Boline, Matt Frello, Mary Kovacevich, Gina "Gotta" Kretschmar, Doris Maccani and Ann Marie Turkal.
The flags of Cornwall, Croatia, Finland, Italy, Poland and Sweden, honoring the immigrants who settled Bessemer, along with the U.S. flag, were raised as part of the ceremony.
Other speakers at the event included John Frello, member of the DDA; Dan Cvengros, Bessemer Area Historical Society Board member; and John Matonich, Michigan Department of Natural Resources commissioner.
"Michigan is home to one of the largest interconnected trail systems in the country," Matonich said.
"This network will soon connect and stretch from Belle Isle, our newest state park in Detroit, to Hurley, Wis., and many places in between. ... An amazing network of partners have come together to acquire, develop and maintain the economic aspects and recreational opportunities that this new park and this new trailhead are important and welcome additions to this entire system."
Savory and sweet "Old Country" foods from each nationality was served, as well as musical performances by Dorothy and the Boys and Marty's Goldenaires.