By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
Hoping to bring history alive and reframe the tea party’s image, Celebrate America organizers welcomed patriots of all kinds to an all-day event Saturday in Hermitage.
President of the Mercer County Christian Coalition Joe Zentis, one of the chief organizers of the second annual gathering, said he thinks any event that can bring people of differing opinions together is worth pursuing.
Zentis said he had second thoughts about putting this year’s rally together, because turnout at last year’s was so poor.
“The tea party has really been slandered in this country. I wanted something that would bring people together,” Zentis said.
“We invited everyone. Absolutely everyone is welcome. The Democrats didn’t come, but we invited them,” he said.
Some two dozen booths offering veteran services, promoting churches and other social service organizations lined the perimeter of the Rodney White Olympic Park, while families strolled the grounds, watching dancers and historic re-enactors.
Eric Montgomery, who had two uncles killed during the D-day invasion, set up a replica of a military tent, offering visitors a vision of what soldiers experienced during WWII.
Zentis said he hopes to generate excitement about history. “Because anybody who appreciates this country is excited about that and I’d like to be part of something that spreads that excitement.”
“And veterans are a huge part, obviously, of all that,” said Zentis, who is a Vietnam veteran.
He hopes to include more re-enactors in future events. “Wouldn’t it be great if kids were learning about say Benjamin Franklin and then he walked up?”
Local author Florence Biros said she came out for Celebrate America because she doesn’t think there is enough emphasis or recognition on what could have happened to the United States.
“We could have been two separate countries,” she said, referring to the Civil War.
“There were 600,000 people that died during that war. That was two percent of the population. If two percent of our citizens died in a war today, that would be 6 million people. That’s pretty hard to swallow,” she said.
Biros, of New Wilmington, has written several books on the Civil War.
Zentis said he wants to get a committee together to start planning an expanded celebration next year.
“I’m a believer. I believe in the United States,” he said.