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Bel Air's Hometown Heroes banners missing for Veterans Day

Bel Air's Hometown Heroes banners missing for Veterans Day

Those who frequent Bel Air's Main Street may be familiar with the town's Hometown Heroes banners, which have decorated downtown lampposts with the faces and names of local veterans for the past two years.

The banners were originally put up in time for Veterans Day of 2011, but they were mysteriously absent as this year's military-centered commemoration rolled around Tuesday.

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Mayor Rob Reier said the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, which is in charge of the banners, is in a bit of flux, as its director, Erika Quesenbery, recently resigned.

"The Downtown Alliance is planning not to put them up," he said. "The Alliance is going through a little bit of change, as far as directors are concerned."

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"The rationale we got was the Alliance was looking to refurbish some of the banners because they were tattered and worn," Reier said. "We were planning on moving forward with it, but they were the ones who put the brakes on it."

"Expect them back up next year," Reier said of the banners, explaining he was not especially concerned about the Alliance's state of transition.

Reier said that explanation came from the town's public works director Steve Klein.

The original program was an effort between the Alliance and the Historical Society of Harford County, who coordinate with the town's public works department to put the banners up, Reier said.

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The banners, each of which features a service member's photo and military information, were set to be on display from mid-October through Thanksgiving in 2011.

The town collects $200 sponsorships for the banners, with the money partly benefiting the Historical Society and Toys For Tots.

The idea originally came after Toni McCracken, owner of Tiger Lily and an Alliance member, saw a similar display in her hometown of Williamsport, Pa.

The town puts up banners and flower baskets for a variety of occasions, Reier and town administrator Jim Fielder said.

"As you have noticed we recently had the 60 hanging flower baskets as well as the Paint The Town Pink banners in recognition to support the cause for cancer," Fielder noted in an e-mail.

Reier added the town's holiday banners should be up in a week or two.

The Alliance's new director, Christine McPherson, officially took over Monday, McPherson said.

She confirmed the town's banners rotate seasonally, but did not immediately have more information on plans for the Hometown Heroes banners.

McPherson was previously with LASOS, a Bel Air-based nonprofit.

Quesenbery replaced Scott Walker as executive director in March. Walker had previously served as director for 4-1/2 years.

Despite the banners' absence, Fielder said Bel Air remains steadfast in its support of veterans.

The town had its annual Veterans Day ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.

"The Town and our citizens celebrate, honor and thank our Veterans for their devotion and commitment to our country," Fielder said via email.

He said the Hometown Heroes banners have also been up during the town's Flag Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day celebrations "as another way to memorialize their dedication to country."

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