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Kaskaskia Island Patriotic Ceremony: Hundreds attend 52nd annual 4th of July event

  • Emily Lyons gives a "Kaskaskia Welcome" to the crowd.

    Emily Lyons gives a "Kaskaskia Welcome" to the crowd.
    Jim Beers photo

  • The Chester Municipal Band performed a 30-minute pre-ceremony concert and provided the music for the ceremony.

    The Chester Municipal Band performed a 30-minute pre-ceremony concert and provided the music for the ceremony.
    Jim Beers photo

  • The combined rifle squad of VFW Post 3553 and American Legion Post 487.

    The combined rifle squad of VFW Post 3553 and American Legion Post 487.
    Jim Beers photo

  • Mitchell Colonel plays taps.

    Mitchell Colonel plays taps.
    Jim Beers photo

By Jim Beers
Contributing writer
updated: 7/11/2022 9:53 AM

Temperatures were in the 90s and the humidity was high, but hundreds of citizens came to Kaskaskia Island on Monday to celebrate freedom and enjoy the 52nd Annual Patriotic Ceremony.

Two hours prior to the start, the people of Kaskaskia Island served freshly grilled hot dogs, pulled pork, BBQ pork nachos and cheese, chips, baked goods and beverages to hungry attendees.

At 12:30 p.m. the Chester Municipal Band performed a 30-minute concert of patriotic music under the direction of Steve Colonel.

The ceremony, "Let Freedom Ring," began at 1 p.m. . Nate Brown, son of the late Barbara Brown, welcomed everyone to the event. The Colors were presented by a combined Color Guard made up of members of the Chester VFW Post 3553 and American Legion Post 487 in Chester. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by the Chester Boy Scouts.

Steve Colonel sang the national anthem, accompanied by the Chester Municipal Band. Melanie Johnson, Randolph County Clerk, directed the band as he sang.

Pastor Jim Oppedal of the First United Methodist Church of Chester provided the invocation and the band played "Ashokan Farewell."

Tom Welge, son of the late Don Welge, welcomed the crowd and introduced Captain Don Martin, commander of the French Marines, Les Companie Franche de La Marine, de Fort de Chartres.

Emily Lyons, Randolph County Historian and former resident of Kaskaskia Island, provided a very detailed Kaskaskia Island update with descriptions of improvements made on the Island and to the grounds of the Church.

The band played "Illinois" after which Tony West, commander of the Chester VFW Post 3553, and Randy Werner, commander of the American Legion Post 487 in Chester, were recognized.

The band played "Armed Forces Medley" which recognizes members and former members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Mayor Larry Riney of Perryville, thanked event organizers for the invitation, praising the efforts put into the event. Representing Chester was Alderman J.D. Maes, who offered insightful comments related to the real meaning of Independence Day and provided many patriotic perspectives as they relate to current happenings in America.

Steve Colonel sang, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to the band's accompaniment.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice David K. Overstreet was the keynote speaker for the day.

The combined VFW and American Legion firing squad saluted fallen soldiers with a 21-gun salute, after which Mitchell Colonel, a May graduate of the University of Illinois in Springfield, played taps.

The Stanley & Mary Hurst family, from Kaskaskia Island, had the honor of ringing the Church Bells in the Annual "Bells Ring for Liberty" ceremony. With bells still slightly ringing, the French Marines de Fort de Chartres fired their muskets.

The French Marines are devoted to the re-enactment of the history of the French and Indian War period. Their Company of Marines is made up of individuals from Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. Their official wool uniforms and period clothing and accessories are quite impressive each year during patriotic programs of all sorts in the area.

To close the musical portion of the 2022 Patriotic Ceremony, Steve Colonel, sang "God Blass America." The band accompanied him and everyone joined in.

Pastor Jim Oppedal closed the ceremony with a benediction and the VFW/American Legion Color Guard retired the colors for the day.

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