It’s a great year to buy a Hometown Hero banner or dust off an old one

WENDY STIVER/THE EXPRESS
Downtown Manager Natasha Gorham unfurls the standard that is now hanging above downtown East Main Street, Lock Haven. It reminds everyone that a new Hometown Heroes Banner Program has started and now is the time to order a banner for the new round.

WENDY STIVER/THE EXPRESS Downtown Manager Natasha Gorham unfurls the standard that is now hanging above downtown East Main Street, Lock Haven. It reminds everyone that a new Hometown Heroes Banner Program has started and now is the time to order a banner for the new round.

LOCK HAVEN — The city may have the title for the largest Hometown Heroes Banner Program in the nation, considering how many soldiers, veterans, and first-responders have been honored with individual banners over the years.

And this year’s program could make Lock Haven special in a new way — as “the most patriotic town in America.”

That’s the goal of Downtown Lock Haven Inc., the nonprofit agency that runs the streetlight banner program.

“We’re excited for this year!” said Downtown Manager Natasha Gorham.

The Downtown Inc. Board of Directors is out selling banners right now and finding sponsorships, she said.

A big red, white and blue standard is now hanging above downtown East Main Street, reminding people it is time to order their banner.

The volunteers hope to fill every banner rod — all 511 of them — with “hometown heroes,” whether their individual banner is new or old.

“We want to give people a good deal,” Gorham said.

A discount flyer appeared recently in The Express. The flyer gives $25 off a new banner, reducing the price from the usual $200 to $175. The offer is good only until May 1, so those who have flyers should hurry to use them.

A limited number of the flyers are still available at The Express office, 9 W. Main St.

People with banners from past programs also can get a discount, and this offer is good right up until the banners are placed on the lightpoles. Past banners may be re-hung this year for the special price of just $50.

This is proving to be popular, Gorham said, and past banners are already coming in. These can be accepted until the last week in July, but the volunteers would appreciate it if families did not wait until the last minute.

Even the regular price of a new banner, which is $200, is a pretty good deal when you consider the red, white and blue banners stay up for two years, from August 2017 until the summer of 2019.

The last day to order a new banner is Wednesday, May 31.

The profusion of banners new and old should make a remarkable display throughout the commercial district and along the river walk on top of the levee. Each year that new banners are ordered, the design changes a little, but they are all red, white and blue and they all echo the hometown patriotism of the greater Lock Haven area.

Each banner features an individual photo, the name of the person honored, his or her hometown, and the name of the sponsor — or a phrase such as “from your loving family.”

Banners for military members and veterans include the era they served. Other information is included for first-responders.

Some individual banners are dedicated to brothers or sisters together, to fathers and sons, and this idea is welcomed — as long as the photo and names fit!

Sponsors of new banners have the first choice of where their banner is hung, but the Downtown Inc. office will do everything it can to accommodate everyone’s request, Gorham said.

Families who would like a past banner re-hung in a specific spot are encouraged to bring it in as soon as possible.

Sister, Brother, Mom, or Grandad sometimes share a banner, passing it back and forth between households. Reprints are easy to get and solve this problem once and for all. Reprints are now available, from any year, for a $100 fee.

The banner program started in 2008 as a way to honor veterans and military personnel.

Over the years, it has been expanded to include police officers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and others who are the rescuers on the scene.

“First-responders are our local heroes, and we definitely want to honor them as well,” the downtown manager said.

“I’ve been told they don’t like the recognition, but they deserve it! My goodness, I don’t run into burning buildings or patrol the streets, but they do. They do so much,” she said.

The Hometown Heroes Banner Program volunteers are already planning the celebration for the new banners.

The ceremony will be held at the Corman Amphitheatre and on the floating stage Saturday, Aug. 12 at 10 a.m. It will again feature patriotic music and a keynote speaker.

The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post will host a veterans breakfast, and in keeping with the “most patriotic town in America,” organizers are planning other events too, for a full day downtown.

It’s not definite yet, but Gorham said a concert by a military band is a possibility.

Her office continues to get calls, all year long, from other communities asking how the Lock Haven banner program is run, she said.

“We are the success story!” she said.

She has taken calls from North Carolina, Warren, Pa., Vermont, California, and is happy to help. Often, a visitor passing through town sees and remarks on the banners here. Upon returning home, they call their city hall or civic club and pass on the idea.

“It’s a great program, a great thing to do for the community,” Gorham said. “We’ll keep it going.”

Other summer events that Downtown Inc. has in the planning stages include the annual Best of Clinton County Summer Festival and Parade, slated for Saturday, June 24.

As always the “Best of” Festival will include children’s fun, the big parade, vendors, arts and crafts. The planners are looking to add new ideas as well, the downtown manager said.

She is currently applying for a grant to buy self-watering flower baskets to add to the beauty of the shopping district.

Downtown Inc. also has recently updated the list of vacant commercial spaces. Interest is being shown in some of them, Gorham said, and she hopes the already low number of vacancies will soon fall even lower.

Anyone and everyone interested in starting, moving or expanding a business is cordially invited to stop in at the Downtown Inc. office at 205 E. Main St., across the street from The Texas restaurant.

The Lock Haven University Small Business Development Center shares office space there, so budding business owners and entrepreneurs will find many helpful resources all in the same place.

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