Military men and women of Harford County will soon see their service to our country honored on banners to be displayed around downtown Bel Air.

The Bel Air Downtown Alliance is teaming up with the Historical Society of Harford County for a Veterans Day observance, which will be held Nov. 10 and 11 at the Bel Air Reckord Armory on Main Street.

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Included in the observance will be the county's first Hometown Heroes Banner Program.

The banners, which are a tribute to veterans and to those currently serving, will be sponsored by family, friends and businesses who want to honor the military people in their lives.

Each banner, which will be 24 inches wide and 44 inches tall, will have the service member's photo, branch of service, era of service and the sponsor's name. All will hang from lampposts in downtown Bel Air from mid-October through Thanksgiving. Afterward, the banners will be moved to the armory and other locations to be put on display.

"We wanted to do something Downtown to help with that celebration with Veterans Day," Scott Walker, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, said.

Walker said the idea originated from a similar program Toni McCracken, owner of Tiger Lily and a member of the Alliance's design committee, saw in her hometown of Williamsport, Pa.

"On a visit to see family and friends almost a year ago now, coming into the city of Williamsport I noticed banners hanging on every post going into town," McCracken wrote in an email. "The next day when I could see them in the daylight, I noticed they were all banners with military 'heroes' on them. I then noticed they were not only on this entrance, but throughout the main streets of the town."

Thinking that the same kind of banners would be a great thing to have in Bel Air. McCracken took a photograph of the banners and sent it to the other members of the design committee, who also loved the idea.

After going back to Williamsport, McCracken asked around about the program.

"I learned it was a sponsorship that allows programs to bring awareness and education to kids about drugs and alcohol abuse," she said. "They told me at first they never thought it would take off the way it did with the sponsorship being $200 in a [period] of lean times for so many."

The town was surprised with how well the program did and now has a waiting list of people wanting to honor their heroes.

Instead of proceeds going to education about drugs and alcohol abuse, Bel Air's sponsorship program will benefit the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program.

"I believe anything like this that has such good cause and can bring a community together is wonderful. I trust we can be the next community to see these banners on our main streets of Bel Air!" McCracken wrote.

Walker says "a dozen or so people" have already expressed interest in sponsoring a banner, but they're hoping for many more. Because of this, the Downtown Alliance is extending its original deadline of Oct. 7 to an unknown date at this time. Walker says this is so they can send out all the banners at the same time to be made instead of a few at a time.

From the $200 sponsorship fee, about 60 percent goes toward the actual production of the banner, Walker said. From the remaining 40 percent, Toys for Tots will receive what is left after expenses incurred for a planned Bel Air Veterans Day parade and by the Historical Society and the Downtown Alliance.

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To learn more about sponsoring a banner, visit http://www.downtownbelair.com or call 443-823-1797.

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