Concerns that the Nassau Avenue Reconstruction Project might cancel one of the neighborhood’s most enduring traditions proved baseless last Thursday. In fact, PS 34’s Flag Day celebration, their 63rd annual salute to Old Glory, was by many accounts, their best yet!
With their usual Norman Avenue Flag Day stage now serving as a detour for the torn up Nassau, school officials considered alternate locations, a reduced production size and even eliminating this year’s festivities entirely. Ultimately, they opted to move the entire production to the narrower Eckford Street, resulting in a more intimate setting, which Principal Alicja Winnicki said “only enhanced the sense of community.”
Hundreds of parents and neighbors jammed Eckford to watch the students pay tribute to the stars and stripes by dancing and singing along to songs, like “You’re a Grand Old Flag” by George M. Cohan and “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” with Texas replaced by Brooklyn, of course. Teacher Sarah Andonov set the tone early with her flawless rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” and patriotic readings by Flag Day Literary Contest winners from grades 2 through 5 left the audience visibly moved.
As in past years, the front row seats were reserved for “special guests,” including local elected officials, Department of Education officials (including a visit from retired District 14 Superintendent Jim Quail), neighborhood school principals, local veterans and many longtime supporters of the school. Edith Schkrutz, who celebrated her 90th birthday this week, has attended all 63 Flag Day events at PS 34. On Thursday, along with her fellow Greenpoint Lions Club members, she handed out awards to winners of the literary contest. “Even with all the construction, it was fantastic! It gets better every year,” Schkrutz said. “The diversity of the children and parents added to the day.”
CB 1 Chairman Chris Olechowski agreed. “The diversity of the children at 34 exemplifies the diversity that makes America great,” he said. “What made the day so memorable was seeing all the kids participating to show their pride in the flag.” Indeed, the school is celebrated for bringing together children of diverse backgrounds. “My theme was ‘the unity of the community,’” said Winnicki. “I think we accomplished that.”
“This year gave a greater sense of community,” continued Winnicki, who noted that the cooperation of the school’s Eckford Street neighbors and the 94th Precinct played a major role in allowing the school to relocate this year’s celebration. “We all felt we belong here, this is our community, and we keep our traditions.” As it turned out, she said, the more compact quarters “made the audience feel like the children were performing especially for them.”
This year’s Flag Day ceremony was dedicated to the memory of former IS 318 Principal and District 14 Superintendent Fred Rubino who passed away this past April.
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