NORTH ANDOVER — The coronavirus pandemic has halted or delayed too many celebrations, but it failed to stop the Field of Honor, a massive display of American flags on the Old Center Common that will begin June 20, the first day of summer.
This patriotic demonstration is organized by the Exchange Club of Lawrence and the Andovers.
Last spring, 350 flags stood on the common, each one a tribute to a veteran or someone who has served or is serving the community. This year, the club expects to place 500 Old Glories there, according to Rick Blain, a longtime Exchange Club member and the event chairman for the Field of Honor.
Each flag measures 3-by-5 feet and is attached to an 8-foot pole.
The flags brightened the common for a week last year, up until the day after Flag Day. This year's demonstration will last two weeks, from June 20 through July 4.
"Last year, we had an overwhelming response," he said.
The selectmen enthusiastically approved a two-week appearance of the Stars and Stripes last July. Richard Vaillancourt, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said at that time the sea of flags "may have been the most photographed event ever held in North Andover."
Last year the Field of Honor concluded with a ceremony commemorating Flag Day. Due to COVID-19, this year’s ceremony was moved to July 4 to coincide with the events organized by the town's Festival Committee.
"And now even this is in question as we look toward a gradual return to some sense of normality. If necessary, this year’s Field of Honor ceremony will be live streamed and recorded," Blain said.
During the two weeks that the flags are on the Common, signs will encourage people to wear masks and practice social distancing while strolling through what Blain called "this magnificent patriotic display."
Flags can be purchased and/or dedicated for a $40 contribution on the website exchangecluboflawrenceandtheandovers.org, or simply exchangecluboflawrence.org. Another website, XCFlags.com, makes the process even easier, Blain said.
Flags can also be purchased by sending a check to the Exchange Club, PO Box 552, Lawrence, MA 01852 or by calling either Blain at 508-523-3086 or Bob Wescott at 978-375-6217.
Those who buy flags are encouraged to dedicate them to people who have served the country or the community. Last year, most of the flags were dedicated to veterans and people currently serving in the armed forces.
"This year we have an opportunity to also recognize and dedicate flags to those on the front line of dealing with this pandemic," Blain pointed out.
Asked why the club is offering the Field of Honor, Blain said, "Americanism is one of the areas that the Exchange Club focuses on."
The other causes promoted by Exchange are community service, youth and the prevention of child abuse.
"We need some positivity at this time,” said Town Manager Melissa Murphy-Rodrigues of the Field of Honor.