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Blair County Pays Tribute to 'The Greatest Generation'

Altoona Exhibit, Events Commemorate 75th Anniversary of Normandy Invasion

The Second World War was perhaps the most notable historic event of the 20th century. It not only affected an entire generation of people, but forever changed our modern world. Though Blair County had not witnessed battles or catastrophic destruction as in Europe or Asia, the people of Central Pennsylvania still experienced the effects of the conflict.

Soldiers and civilians alike participated in a monumental war movement that would ultimately fuel an arsenal of democracy. This common goal would eventually liberate Europe from a fascist dictator and his anti-Semitic agenda.

All this summer, Central Pennsylvania will celebrate this liberation from oppression with memorials, parades, exhibits, lectures, shows and other patriotic festivities.

Organizers hope these various events throughout the community will help raise awareness and appreciation of the efforts Blair County played in the pivotal years of the Second World War.

Go to http://www.explorealtoona.com for times, pricing and additional information.

Starting on Saturday, May 25, the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum will house the Heinz History Center’s traveling exhibit, “We Can Do It!” This captivating display will examine Pennsylvania’s impact on the war, both at home and overseas.

The exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day until July 16. Corresponding exhibits will also open at the Baker Mansion History Museum on May 24 at 11 a.m.

Events in May

The public can also join the Pennsylvania Military Museum for its annual World War II Revisited Reenactment in Boalsburg. Living historians, portraying field life in the European Theater, will be present to discuss the daily struggles of frontline soldiers.

A short history of the war begins at 12:45 p.m. followed immediately by a tactical demonstration between Axis and Allied forces. The military camp will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26.

The Railroaders Memorial Museum will present a double-feature film screening on May 30. “Our Flag Still Waves,” a short documentary about Pennsylvania native and Iwo Jima flag-raiser, Sgt. Michael Strank, plays at 6 p.m. Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film “Dunkirk,” follows at 7 p.m.

The next morning, Allegheny Creamery and Crepes of Hollidaysburg will provide a free Veterans Breakfast inside the Railroaders Memorial Museum’s roundhouse at 9 a.m.

More events

• Altoona Curve Baseball will host a commemoration game for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on June 7. Living historians will roam the stadium and talk to the public about the Normandy invasion. Big Band music and wartime news broadcasts will play over the speakers. Other activities will occur throughout the night including a tribute jersey auction benefitting the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center.

• The Railroaders Memorial Museum, the Altoona Symphony Orchestra and the Allegheny Ballet Company will present “A Night of Music and Dance” in the museum’s roundhouse on June 8 at 6 p.m.

• A Flag Raising Memorial at the Jaffa Shrine Center will occur on June 9 at 10 a.m. Later, a screening of the 1962 war epic, “The Longest Day,” will be shown at the Mishler Theatre at 7 p.m. The film is a monumental portrayal of the D-Day invasion and stars John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum.

• Historian Jared Frederick presents “Students and Soldiers: Penn State Altoona and WW II” on June 13. This presentation will offer perspective, not only on the students’ wartime experiences but also how important higher education was to their leadership and growth as post-war citizens. The talk will take place at the Robert E. Eiche Library in Room 202 from 12 to 1 p.m.

• The public can listen to the 28th Infantry Division Band at Baker Mansion on June 14 at 2 p.m.

• Enjoy an immersive journey to the past with the Everett Railroad Company on Saturday, June 15. Throughout the day, Steam Locomotive Number 11 will provide nostalgic train rides with living historians. Big Band era music will provide a sentimental ambiance as you roll through this unique and educational experience suitable for all ages.

• The Railroaders Memorial Museum will have their Alive@Five Concert Series on June 21. During the concert, there will be a Rosie the Riveter Look-a-Like Event where participants can dress like the famous character and strike her legendary pose. That same night, the 2012 movie “Red Tails” will be shown on the lawn of Baker Mansion at 8:30 p.m. This entertaining, patriotic film chronicles the famous fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

• Altoona History Teacher James Lowe will present his lecture, “Victory Gardens and Scrap Drives: The Blair County Homefront at War” on June 26 at 7 p.m. as part of Baker Mansion’s lecture series. In addition to his talk, Lowe will be displaying his personal collection of wartime memorabilia.

• The Blair County Genealogical Society will host a WW II Family History Day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on June 29. Attendees will be granted access to a wide variety of documents.

• The Mishler Theatre will be showing the 1953 classic, “From Here to Eternity” on June 30 at 2 p.m.

• On July 2 at 7 p.m., the Altoona Community Theatre will perform “Spies in Railroad City: A Mystery Tour” at the Railroaders Memorial Museum. Guests will be invited to put on their detective caps in this participatory theater production in which attendees must detect the German spy in their midst.

• Delgrosso’s Amusement Park’s annual “Summer Thunder” firework display will be held the evening of July 4 at 10 p.m. This display will be uniquely World War II themed, featuring Big Band musical numbers.

Final weekend

The final weekend of events will include a presentation by historian Todd DePastino at the Horseshoe Curve on July 11 at 7 p.m. DePastino will address the story of Operation Pastorius, the Nazi plot to destroy the Curve and other key industrial sites.

• Baker Mansion will be hosting a 1940s lawn barbecue featuring music and period decorations on July 13 at 6 p.m. Finally, on July 13 and 14, the Furious Fourth WW II Living History Group will be stationed at the Horseshoe Curve, recreating garrison life when the landmark was under guard from 1942-1946.


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