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200 Years in the Making: Blowing Rock “Flash Mob” in Star Spangled Celebration

By D.X.D. Hall. June 12, 2014. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Unsuspecting visitors to “Art in the Park” will get a noontime patriotic, “flash mob” type of surprise on Saturday in Blowing Rock, thanks to a star-spangled “Flag Day” collaboration of Handelbarr Consulting, Blowing Rock News, the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Blowing Rock Historical Society, and Blowing Rock Art & History Museum.

Graphic courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

Saturday’s “Flag Day” events are part of America’s 200-year anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing the lyrics of The Star Spangled Banner” on September 3, 1814, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. Key was a 35-year old lawyer and amateur poet, who was held on a British warship until after the battle after trying to negotiate an exchange of prisoners.  Because Key and his colleague, John Stuart Skinner, had overheard British plans to bombard Fort McHenry, they were held until after the battle.  The two witnessed not only the bombardment of Fort McHenry, but also an attempt by the British gunboats to slip past the fort and land in a cove west of it.  The gunboats were turned away by fire from Fort Covington.  Once the shelling had stopped, Key was inspired to write after witnessing the American victory and the sight of a large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort the next morning.

That same flag is today one of the treasured displays of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  The Smithsonian is promoting a series of “Raise the Flag” type parties on Saturday all over the U.S., culminating with a live webcast of “Anthem for America: Star-Spangled Banner 1814-2014” at 2:30 pm (EDT) on Saturday.  For more information about the Smithsonian events, click HERE.

According to historical accounts, Mr. Key gave his poem to a brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, who noted that Key’s lyrics meshed with a popular melody by English composer, John Stafford Smith, the official song of the Anacreonic Society, an 18th century gentlemen’s club in London.

Blowing Rock’s ‘Flash Mob’ Party

Blowing Rock’s singing of the national anthem at noon during Art in the Park is the brainchild of Bill Barr, owner of Handelbarr Consulting.  Precisely at noon, he will ring out 12 bells using a handbell, immediately followed by David Rogers, editor of Blowing Rock News belting out the first line of “The Star Spangled Banner.”  Barr and others will join in for the second line, then organizers hope that many more in attendance will help finish the popular first verse of the anthem.

“We hope that by the third line, the entire crowd at Art in the Park will have joined in,” Mr. Barr told Blowing Rock News on Thursday.

In promoting the event, Blowing Rock News joins the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, BRAHM, and the Historical Society, which are each encouraging their respective members to turn out in force, each wearing red, white and blue in keeping with the celebration’s theme.

“Let’s surprise our many town guests on Saturday.  We picked Art in the Park for our ‘flash mob’,” Mr. Barr explained to Blowing Rock News, “because usually at noon it is packed with people admiring the many artists and artisans exhibiting their creativity. In many ways, it is especially fitting to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at an art event, because there are many areas of the world where there are still limitations to how expressive or creative an artist can be.

Barr concluded, “We hope that all of Blowing Rock — and the rest of the High Country, too — will come to Blowing Rock around 11:45 am on Saturday, to help celebrate the origins of our national anthem. Come, help us sing.”

Barr noted that the Smithsonian is coordinating “the biggest national anthem sing-along in history” at 4:00 pm, which concludes the 90-minute “Raise It Up! Anthem for America Concert” whose webcast begins at 2:30 pm. CLICK HERE.



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