This year marks a century of Ralpho Township’s popular Labor Day weekend event honoring veterans, past and present.
All Home Days traces its history back to the autumn of 1919, when World War I servicemen and servicewomen were welcomed home to Ralpho Township at the war’s end. The first celebration was a gala event with a picnic and dinner.
Thirty-eight men and three women from the township had enlisted in World War I. Two men — Sgt. Russell Kimball and Pvt. Albert Reeder, both in the Army — died in the line of duty.
“For decades, the Ralpho Township area has joined together as a community to honor veterans of today and yesterday,” All Home Days Association president Melissa Snarski wrote in her president’s message this year. “The All Home Days weekend is a time to eat, laugh and celebrate with neighbors, friends and family while paying tribute to the brave men and women who have given selflessly to the armed forces.”
The 100th anniversary milestone will include special events this year, including a traveling 9/11 exhibit and a parachuting team.
The All Veteran Parachuting Team (AVPT) is led by Mike Elliott, a former U.S. Army Golden Knight. His resume includes more than 13,500 skydives, and more than 5,000 tandem jumps — including one with former President George H.W. Bush Sr. in celebration of his 90th birthday.
The team performs demonstrations and patriotic displays at public and private events across the country.
J.P. Marinari, past chair of All Home Days, as well as a former military paratrooper and friend of Elliott’s, helped to bring the parachuting team to All Home Days this year.
Marinari said he told Elliott that after traveling in 16 countries and 33 states, “This is probably the most patriotic area I’ve ever seen.” Upon hearing that, Marinari said Elliott is considering making All Home Days an annual commitment for the team.
The AVPT will perform a sunset jump on Sunday at 7:30 p.m., complete with flags, smoke and pyrotechnics. They will carry with them 100th Anniversary plaques to honor the Elysburg Fire Department, All Home Days Association, and the American Legion. They will freefall into the baseball diamond of Ralpho Township Community Park, where they will present the plaques to Congressman Dan Meuser, Rep. Kurt Masser and other elected dignitaries.
All Home Days will also be holding a raffle — the winner of which will be able to tandem jump with Elliott on Monday at the All Home Days celebration. After the jump, the winner will describe the experience at the closing ceremony.
Marinari said such demonstrations by the parachuting team serves as an outreach to continue honoring veterans and to educate the public about veteran plights.
In addition, he said, “It heightens awareness of the specialized training that some of our soldiers go through in order to be in the special forces…I don’t think people have an appreciation for that.”
He said the jumpers will exit the plane at 12,500 to 14,000 feet, freefall for a minute at 120 feet per second, and then open their parachutes and glide for six minutes — and then “land right on the money, with the same precision that all of our HALO paratroopers use in the military.”
Marinari said the team’s visit to All Home Days, however, will be much more than just a performance. He said they’ll be spending the day there, walking around and especially meeting and greeting the veterans.
The parachuting team, Marinari said, is one way that he and groups such as the local DAV, VFW, and others, are working to keep the focus of All Home Days on honoring veterans.
At noon on Friday, The 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit will begin its Valley tour at the Silver Moon parking lot on Route 15 in Lewisburg, and will travel through Sunbury, Northumberland, Danville, Bloomsburg, Catawissa, Natalie, Mount Carmel, Kulpmont, Shamokin, and then end at the Elysburg Fire Station around 3 p.m.
The exhibit — a high-tech, 53-foot tractor-trailer that unfolds into a 1,000-square-foot exhibit — is presented by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which honors its namesake — a New York City firefighter who lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001. He had strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and rushed on foot through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he was killed saving others. The exhibit includes interactive education, including artifacts such as steel beams from the towers, documentary videos, recordings of first responder radio transmissions, and live tours by FDNY firefighters. Entrance to the exhibit is always free.
A chaplain from the World War II Chaplains Memorial Foundation will also be at All Home Days. Snarski said he will be set up in a tent, where World War II items will be on display.
According to Snarski, All Home Days attracts approximately 10,000 people each year.
This year, the event will include more than 50 craft vendors and many food vendors, from pizza and burgers to pork chops on a stick. Breakfast will be offered each day.
On Saturday, the event includes a toy and pet parade, flower show, the opening of a time capsule (from 25 years ago), a Cub Scout ceremony to retire American flags, entertainment by Deuce from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., and Napier Jewelry Bingo with Vera Bradley Purse raffles.
Sunday will include a car show, church service, flower show, Soft Haven Leggings Bingo, Grace Chapel spaghetti and prayer dinner, and music by Light Switch from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to dusk, followed by a fireworks display.
Monday will feature a Rotary 5K, flower show, Veteran K9 demonstration, music by Memory Lane from 2 to 4 and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., a chicken barbecue dinner, and a 4 p.m. special presentation by Sen. John Gordner and Rep. Kurt Masser, followed by a Tribute to Veterans at 4:30 p.m.
Snarski thanks all who worked to make the celebration a reality again this year.
“I hope that through continued support, the heritage of All Home Days will last for years to come.”