The Ford City Memorial Eve Candlelight Service is scheduled for this Sunday, May 26.
It will be the 69th annual event held in Ford City Park along 4th Avenue.
While some towns honor veterans with a parade, such as Kittanning, Ford City has a custom of observing our fallen veterans with a candlelight ceremony.
Lights throughout the Park will be turned off and residents are urged to light candles on their porch, in a sense of nostalgia when flags were flown and almost every house lit a candle.
Veterans who served and are currently in the Armstrong County Legion Honor Guard will fire off a 21-Gun Salute.
The ceremony is coordinated each year by the Ford City Lions Club.
The event has had some hurtles to clear over the years. Past practice was always to shut off the street lights throughout the town. In 2014, Borough Council contracted FirstEnergy to upgrade the lighting grid, which threatened to not have a shutoff switch.
“The nearest we can estimate is that this was set up in 1954 and was set-up on the basis of servicing the Lions for control of the street lights in town during the Memorial Day service,” said FirstEnergy Customer Support Specialist Doug Good in 2014.
West Penn Power has maintained the original system since it was bought from Ford City Electric approximately 65 years ago.
“I have 144 municipalities that I deal with, and this is the only one – they are unique,” said Area Manager Rob Lombardo.
Many years ago, speaker cable was strung to large speakers at various ends of the town. The sound would echo, bouncing off the hillside and back across the Allegheny River.
When speaker installation was no longer viable, the Lions used the fire department siren amplifier to serve as a public address system to the town.
Last month, Ford City EMA Director Greg Dinko told Council that the siren system was in extreme disrepair and couldn’t be used in that manner.
Lions Club members still had a plan in their back pocket. Local radio station WTYM will broadcast the ceremony live beginning at 10PM until its conclusion. The program is available on AM 1380, FM 103.7, or on the Internet at www.wtymradio.com. The townsfolk are encouraged to light their candle on their porch and listen to the ceremony using their radio or computer.
This year, the keynote speaker will be David Round.
“I grew up in Cadogan. I left there in 1971 and did 23 years in the military. In the military, I was a B-52 Bombardier, navigator bombardier. I did that for 11 years. The final 12 years, I worked in Intelligence. I left Cadogan when I was 20 and I came back when I was 65 to my hometown.”
Round said he is amazed that the town is able to continue to support the event year after year.
“We moved around quite a bit with the military, and there’s no other community that does the service like this. It’s just a beautiful ceremony – short and sweet, but reminds every one of the importance of the holiday. So, it means a lot to me.”
Round said that since he came from a military family, the ceremony takes on special meaning.
“My father was in World War II for four years in New Guinea, the Phillipines, and he when he finished the military he was in the 871st Air Borne Engineers who built all the runways for the planes just as they were forcing the Japanese back. They were always on the front lines. So, it kind of impressed me. I didn’t think about a military career until I moved away from town and work was thin in the ‘70s so I decided I was going to join and I picked the Air Force.”
The ceremony will begin at 10PM and lasts approximately 20 minutes. The public is invited to come to the park or participate by listening to WTYM.