NEW PARIS — On Sunday, Sept. 11, the final day of New Paris AppleFest, a special veterans memorial area was dedicated in New Paris Community Park, in honor of all who have served the United States armed forces.
“Welcome to today’s dedication ceremony for a new veterans’ memorial area and thank you for attending,” JoAnn Ponder welcomed everyone to the ceremony. “I would like to start by acknowledging the people who have made this area in the park possible: the New Paris Community Park Foundation, the village council for approving the project, American Legion Post 360 and all of the organizations within the Post — the Legionnaires, the Auxiliary, the Sons and the Riders.
Ponder went on to thank Reinhardt Landscaping, Rose City Nursery, Richmond Building Supply, Riegel Feed and Grain, and everyone who helped with the landscaping.
“Also our Fire Chief Brian Simpson, Nicole Riegel Wood, Paul Henry — it was a team effort and for me it was a labor of love,” she said.
“As we sit here in this memorial area and reflect, pray, or just enjoy the solitude, let us never forget to honor our service members and to remember the sacrifices they have made in honor of duty and of country; the brave men and women that have fought for our freedoms past and present, many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice that we can remain free,” Ponder noted.
“When we have talked about what we want to see in our park up here, among ourselves, in council, in groups and meetings with the park board, everybody has a different idea,” New Paris Mayor Kathy Smallwood said. “But we’ve always said there should be something for everybody you know, so that everyone can come and do something and have some kind of fun here in our parks. This is not exactly a fun area. This is a wonderful area. This area fills the bill for everything. Because everyone can come here.
“This is a place in itself for everyone,” Smallwood continued. “A place of reflection, reminiscence and remembrance a place for honoring and grieving and contemplation for our veterans and for all of ourselves.”
Ronny Ponder, Commander of American Legion Post 360, explained the American Legion family is not only happy but proud to be able to sponsor and finance the biggest part of the memorial.
“Now this memorial is not just for the fallen, it’s for all veterans who have served and are serving, it’s for the husbands and wives and the mothers and dads, brothers and sisters and all the veterans’ loved ones to come, sit and remember,” Ronny Ponder said. “What a sacred place! We could not be more honored than to provide this to the community.”
“First off, I just want to thank everybody who’s standing here to see this commitment happen. I want to thank Joanne Ponder for her hard work, her dedication and her physical help to come out here. She dug holes, planted plants, we spread mulch, and she’s got blisters to prove it,” New Paris Community Park Foundation President Chelle Arthur said in thanking everyone who helped complete the project. “This is one that we can be proud of. It’s got our blood, sweat and tears and it means a lot to me personally. I just want to thank everybody. I want to thank the Legion for their generous, generous donations to make this happen. It would not have happened without them.”
The flag at the memorial was lowered to half staff at the conclusion of the ceremony, in commemoration of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks.
AppleFest itself opened on Friday with a special ribbon cutting ceremony by the New Paris Chamber of Commerce.
“Welcome everyone to the 2022 New Paris Applefest,” NP Chamber of Commerce President Chris Reke said during the ceremony. “We are excited to have everyone here and joining us today. Beside me are our board members Nicole Wood, Perrica Short, Keith Kelly, and Brad Simpson. Together with our amazing AppleFest committee, we are excited for everyone to enjoy all of the festivities that have been planned for this weekend. When the first Applefest was held back on Sept. 23, 1994, a steering committee brought the community together to create our festival. Their mission was to provide a recreational and financial opportunity to our citizens with pride in our community. Today we hope as a Chamber the same steering committee would be proud of what our festival has become and grown into, not only being enjoyed by the wonderful citizens of New Paris, but people from far and wide.
“We want to thank everyone who has helped with the preparations, planning and volunteering of their time to make this festival the success it is,” Reke continued. “Without all of you and our amazing sponsors we would not be where we are today.”
Despite some inclement weather on Sunday, the festival was a successful weekend filled with family-friendly activities, live music and more.
(Reporter Callista Kisling contributed to this article.)
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.