LEWISTON — Rollie Heckethorn and David Projansky imagine people walking among rows of U.S. flags until their peripheral vision fills with stars and stripes.
To make it happen, they have ordered 400 flags and 400 assembly kits, each with enough PVC pipe to raise a flag and a bar of 3-foot rebar to hold the flagpole in place. And they have reserved the open space of Simard-Payne Memorial Park in downtown Lewiston to erect a temporary field of honor.
The flags are scheduled to go up on May 27. A dedication at the park attended by Gov. Paul LePage is planned for around noon on Saturday, May 28, following the annual holiday parade. The flags will come down sometime after 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, just as the holiday is winding down.
If it works, the patriotic pair hope to do it annually as a fundraiser for the Auburn Exchange Club, which is sponsoring the spectacle and hopes to raise money by selling each of the flags for at least $40 apiece.
The men hope the flag event will become as much of a tradition as the parade.
The parade, run by the L&A Veterans Council, is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 28, at Kennedy Park in Lewiston. Its familiar track will take it down Chestnut Street, down Lisbon Street to Main Street and across Longley Memorial Bridge to Auburn. Once there, it will loop through Great Falls Plaza, go past the Androscoggin County Courthouse and back down Court Street before settling once again in Lewiston at Veterans Memorial Park.
If the parade follows tradition, it will have at least 60 groups and organizations on hand to participate, said Bert Dutil, adviser to the L&A Veterans Council. At Veterans Park, the 21st tablet with names of 216 local veterans will be unveiled.
Projansky hopes to follow the council’s lead with the flag event.
“This is not meant to be one and done,” said Projansky, who learned of the “field of honor” concept after attending a regional meeting of exchange clubs. Counterparts in Newburyport, Mass., created a field that paid tribute to the lives lost during the 9/11 attacks. Hundreds of others have been held around the country.
“I kind of chewed on it for awhile,” Projansky said. Eventually, he convinced himself of the project’s value.
He figured its patriotic message would help the club, which makes charitable donations to a variety of local groups.
“It’s a big enough project that it gets your name out,” he said.
Yet, to both Heckethorn and Projansky, the field’s first duty is to the solemn holiday.
“It’s all about the veterans,” Heckethorn said. “We’re trying to honor them and their sacrifices.”
They only wish they had more time.
The men have been working to get the flags and the assembly kits from a supplier and to decide where to put them up. At first, they imagined Veterans Memorial Park, but it was too small for what they had in mind. They eventually settled on Simard-Payne Memorial Park’s wide lawn. They worked on finding business sponsors, appeared before the Lewiston City Council and put together a plan for getting the flags up and down.
“We knew there would be a learning curve,” Projansky said. Their plans call for a crew of 20 to spend May 27 driving the rebar into the ground and lifting the flags skyward.
Heckethorn, a veteran who spent years aboard the Navy’s P-3 Orions, said he is looking forward to walking among the completed rows.
And next year?
“Not less than a thousand flags,” Heckethorn said.