SUMMERSIDE — Small flags, each raised in honour of a fallen hero.
The flags, 158 in total, will be hoisted high on either side of a Summerside street, tightly grasped by everyday Islanders, those who enjoy the day-to-day freedoms that those Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan lost their lives to protect.
The tribute, which takes place Saturday, is expected to be moving and emotional, an anticipated highlight of an event that will attract thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the city for five days.
Atlanticade is a five-day motorcycle festival, currently in its eighth year, and features various events centered around the hobby, including burn-out competitions, stunt displays and, of course, displays of motorcycles.
The Highway of Heroes tribute and parade is one in a long list of events part of Atlanticade that the event’s chairman, Dale Hicks, is looking forward to most.
“There is no question that it is going to be emotional,” said Hicks. “The bikers, it probably won’t hit them until they go through. If we can have those 158 flags on display at 5:45 on Saturday night, that’s going to shake them up a bit.
“When you go through 158 flags of fallen soldiers, no doubt it is going to hit them.”
The Highway of Heroes Parade follows a ceremony, which takes place at 4:15 p.m. at Borden-Carleton’s Gateway Arena, to dedicate the Island portion of the Highway of Heroes.
The parade, which immediately follows the ceremony, will see hundreds of motorcycles travel around 5 p.m. to Summerside, weaving their way through the city, going along South Drive and finally up Rufus Street, which will be lined on either side with volunteers holding the flags, to Credit Union Place.
“We are going to try and have as many bikers there as we can for this,” said Hicks.
Organizers are still looking for volunteers to raise these flags and have teamed up with Tourism Summerside and the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside.
The hope is, said Hicks, that through club members — children aged six to 13 — along with an adult, will each have a flag. The volunteers are also encouraged to wear red in support of Canada’s troops.
“You would have the parent holding the eight-foot pole with the flag. There are also matching plaques for each for these soldiers, so the child could hold the plaque and we parade the bikes up through that,” noted Hicks.
Among the 158 are two Islanders — Warrant Officer Frank Mellish, who was killed in action during Operation Medusa on Sept. 3, 2006, in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, and Captain Nichola Goddard, the first female killed in action in Afghanistan. She died on May 17, 2006, in Panjwayi District, Afghanistan.
Anyone wanting to volunteer can contact Samantha at the Boys and Girls Club at
303-4884 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atlanticade starts Friday and concludes with the Parade of Iron Horses at noon Tuesday. A complete schedule of events can be found at www.atlanticade.ca.