Flag Day ceremony in Sarasota sparked by emotion, music, monologue

SARASOTA -- Vane Scott III seemed to understand when a woman from Tara Preserve in Manatee County broke down in tears while shaking his hand.

The woman was Janet Jones, one of dozens of fans who just wanted to meet the man up close who delivered the dramatic and humorous performance called "The Many Faces of Old Glory" during the "Celebrating the Stars and Stripes" Flag Day ceremony Sunday evening at Patriot Park at Sarasota National Cemetery.

"I wanted to tell him how important this is," Jones said later. "American history is being pushed aside. I want our children to have this."

For the previous 90 minutes, Scott had just brought America's Revolutionary War to life in a monologue, during which he displayed 25 of America's 27 official flags and told the stories that went with them.

As Scott spoke, he was backed up by an original musical score performed by The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota under the baton of Robyn L. Bell. Bell is conducting her fourth season with the orchestra and is currently a doctoral candidate in music education at Boston University.

Who knew that some American flags were green and some had crazy arrays of stars and multi-pointed stars? And some had large blue blocks and smaller stripes.

"His history of the flag was wonderful," said Sarasota's Jacki Kaiser, whose husband, Tom, is buried in Sarasota National Cemetery on State Road 72. "Tom was so patriotic. I love that he was close enough tonight to hear Mr. Scott."

"He told all those stories without any notes," said Ed Albrecht of Sarasota, who attended with Leona Dilliplane.

"I realized there is so much about the history of our flag I did not know," Dilliplane said.

One of those little known stories was about the Green Mountain Boys, a militia headed by Ethan Allen. Led by Allen, the Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.

The Green Mountain Boys flag, displayed by Scott, had a green field with a blue square containing 13 white stars placed randomly.

"I think Ethan opened a furniture store after the war," quipped Scott, who included many humorous little barbs in his performance, poking fun at present day figures such as politician Hillary Clinton and news anchor Brian Williams.

Scott told the crowd that the Grand Union Flag, which had stripes but no stars, was the flag the colonists actually went to war with. It was hoisted at George Washington's headquarters.

After Scott's fans had all talked to him or had their picture made with him, Scott confessed he was also a bit awed Sunday, something hard to do for a guy whose family has done the show for 35 years.

"Patriot Plaza," Scott said. "My chin hit the floor when I first saw it. I've never seen anything like it. To be inside this pavilion, on this hallowed ground, with The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota playing behind me and the crowd of Bradenton and Sarasota citizen in front of me, it was totally amazing."

Patriot Plaza was created by a $12 million gift from the Patterson Foundation. It's a covered amphitheater with a 2,800-seat pavilion and is unique to Sarasota National Cemetery. It was dedicated in July.

Sunday's crowd was estimated at about 2,000.

Scott was at his best when he recreating the conversation in Betty Ross's Philadelphia kitchen when she asks government officials if it is possible that the stars on the American flag could all be five-pointed, rather than six-, or eight- or even 10-pointed.

"I can make a five-pointed star in one cut of my scissor," Scott had Ross telling U.S. congressmen.

The event was put on by the Military Officers Association of Sarasota,

The program also honored the service and sacrifices of all the men and women interred nearby who served under the American flag.

Following Scott's performance, there was a formal flag retirement and retreat ceremony.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.