Posts Tagged ‘Trace Adkins’

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The National Memorial Day Concert

Over the past week or so it has become clear to me that Memorial Day is one of the best holidays to schedule a visit to our nation’s capitol. There are so many activities that take place, all scheduled within a short period of time leading up to the holiday, that it is worth planning ahead so that you can be here next year.  And during this past weekend I was able to attend an event that was a highlight for me – The National Memorial Day Concert.

Actually, this year I attended the dress rehearsal for the concert. And it turned out to be a good decision. The concert itself takes place on the Sunday before Memorial Day, and the dress rehearsal takes place on Saturday.  Both are held on the West Lawn, on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building (MAP).  The dress rehearsal includes everything the actual concert does, except this year it didn’t include the rain.  It was a dry, mild evening for the rehearsal on Saturday. But on Sunday, rain brought on by a tropical depression making its way up the East Coast, fell throughout most of the concert.

So I took my youngest daughter, and we got to the rehearsal concert early.  In fact,  we arrived just as they were opening the security gates. So we got great lawn seats, right behind the cordoned-off security area in the front.  We had a great view of this year’s performers, including the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly, who were at times accompanied by The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Chorus, The Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, The U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, and The U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants. We also enjoyed performances by acclaimed classical singer Renée Fleming, actress and singer Katharine McPhee, American Idol winner Trent Harmon, and Broadway star Alfie Boe. But the highlights of the concert for me were The Beach Boys, who I hadn’t seen in person since their controversial 1980 concert for the 4th of July on the National Mall, singing several of their iconic songs, and country music star Trace Adkins, who performed his hit song entitled Arlington.

The concert was a lot of fun. Both my daughter and I really enjoyed it. But the highlight for my daughter came after the performances ended. At this point it is important to know that she is a huge fan of Gary Sinise who, for the 11th year in a row, co-hosted the event along with Joe Montegna.  In fact, despite his widespread popularity, she may actually be Gary Sinise’s biggest fan. So after the performances ended, and most of the crowd had left, the hosts and performers stayed and taped some additional footage so that if the next night’s concert had to be cancelled due to the approaching storm, an edited version of the rehearsal would be able to air in the time slot scheduled for of the live broadcast of the concert.  And it was during this time that the highlight of my daughter’s evening occurred.

Since most of the security detail left along with the crowd at the end of the rehearsal, we saw an opportunity and snuck through the security barriers into the cordoned off area where Gary Sinise was filming his retakes so she can see him close up.  Then, just as everything was ending and the performers were beginning to leave, she was able to catch up with him as he was exiting the stage, and actually meet him.  And standing there in her Bubba Gump Shrimp Company hat, like one that he wore in the movie Forrest Gump, and her Lieutenant Dan t-shirt, she also got him to autograph her hat as they briefly talked.

She said her heart was beating so hard that it almost burst out of her chest when she met him.  And she’s been absolutely giddy about the whole experience ever since.  She even ran out the next day and bought a display case for the autographed hat.  Afterward she told me that meeting her favorite actor and getting his autograph had been a big item on her bucket list. So she has now crossed that off her list. And I got to cross an item off my list too, which was to help someone else accomplish something on their bucket list.  And despite how good the performances were, that beats a concert any day.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Note:  My one complaint about the National Memorial Day Concert and the preceding rehearsal is that despite warnings about traffic and inadequate parking for the event, they make no accommodations for people arriving on bicycles.

Owney the Postal Service Mascot

Owney the Postal Service Mascot

On this bike ride I went to meet a dog named Owney. Also known by the nickname “Globe-trotter,” Owney was a scruffy terrier-mix mutt, who was nation’s most famous canine during his lifetime.

Owney first wandered into a Post Office in Albany, New York in 1888, and eventually went on to become a world-travelling mascot for The U.S. Postal Service.  It is thought that Owney’s original owner was might have been a postal clerk who let the dog walk with him to work.  Then at some point, his owner moved away and Owney stayed on at the post office where he had made a number of new friends, becoming a regular fixture there. Others speculate that Owney was homeless before wandering into the post office. Whatever the case may be, once he wandered in to the Albany Post Office, Owney found himself a new home and a new family.

Owney was attracted to something about the mailbags. Perhaps it was the texture, or maybe the scent. No one really knows for sure. Anyway, he liked them so much that he would come in and make himself at home among them.  In cold weather, postal workers would even bundle him in mailbags to help keep him warm. Owney became somewhat of a guardian of the bags and the mail in them, and would not allow anyone other than mail clerks to touch or handle the bags.  In fact, Owney liked the mailbags so much that he soon began to follow them when they left Albany.

At first Owney accompanied the mail bags onto mail wagons. Eventually, he also began to follow the bags that were loaded onto the Railway Post Office trains. Owney rode the trains across the state, and eventually around the country. Then, in 1895, Owney made an around-the-world trip, traveling with mailbags on trains and steamships from the Tacoma, Washington, sailing for China and Japan and through the Suez Canal before sailing back to New York City.  He then returned to Albany. Over the next decade Owney traveled by train over 140,000 miles, following postal workers and mailbags almost everywhere they traveled.

At a time when train wrecks were all too common, no train on which Owney rode was ever involved in a wreck. So railway mail clerks considered him a good luck charm, and adopted Owney as their unofficial mascot for the next nine years. Clerks along his routes would mark Owney’s travels by placing metal baggage tags with each city’s name on his collar. Each time Owney returned home to Albany, the clerks there would see the tags and find out where Owney had been.

After a while Postmaster General John Wanamaker, who was one of Owney’s many fans, learned that his collar was weighed down by an ever-growing number of tags. So he gave Owney a vest on which to wear and display the “trophies.” Postmaster Wanamaker also declared that Owney was the Official Mascot of the Rail Mail Service.

By the spring of 1897 Owney was in poor health. He had been “retired” from traveling and was living with a postal worker in St. Louis, Missouri.  But the trains and the dog could not be separated for long, and by the summer he was again riding the rails.

On June 11, 1897, a postal worker in Toledo, Ohio was showing off Owney and his collection of tags to a local newspaper reporter. Owney, who was an old dog by then and still in poor health, was agitated and barking. He then turned and bit the postal worker on the hand.  The postal worker spread the word that Owney was mad, and the Toledo postmaster summoned the town marshall, who shot him, thus bringing a sad ending to both the life and the career of the famous little mutt.

Despite his one fatal gaff, Owney was still a beloved dog. Postal clerks raised funds to have Owney preserved, and he was given to the Post Office Department’s headquarters in here in D.C. Owney later made appearances in St. Louis at the 1904 World’s Fair, and the Post Office Department’s exhibit at the Sesquicentennial exhibit in Philadelphia, before returning to D.C.  In 1911, the department transferred Owney to the Smithsonian Institution, where he was put on display in the National Museum of American History.  In 1993 he moved to The National Postal Museum, where he has remained ever since.

After over 100 years, Owney continues to remain popular. In 2011, Owney was deemed worthy of depiction on a U.S. postage “forever” stamp. Owney has also been the main character in five hard cover books, a graphic novel entitled “The Secret Around-the-World Adventures of Owney the Postal Dog,” and an ebook entitled “Owney the Mail Pouch Pooch,” which features Owney’s theme song entitled “Owney — Tales From The Rails,” sung my country music artist Trace Adkins.  Owney also has his own blog, as well as a Facebook and Twitter pages.  Owney even has his own interactive iPhone app which can be downloaded for free at the iTunes store.

Owney can be seen on display in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, wearing his vest and surrounded by some of the over 1,000 tags that he accumulated on his travels. Many of Owney’s tags did not survive, but museum currently has 372 Owney tags in its collections. The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), next to Union Station in northeast D.C.’s Swampoodle neighborhood. The Museum is open from 10:00am to 5:30pm daily except for Christmas. And you can’t beat the price of admission – it’s free.

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