Flag and Field

by Ben Boulden

Two events of note occured in May 1916. Fort Smith dedicated its flag and a new sports venue, Stadium Park at South Ninth Street and Carnall.

Both events were part of a larger New Era Celebration held for three days in May in Fort Smith that year. The celebration was intended to encourage the spirit of harmony and cooperation, according to the Times Record.

Stadium Park would play host to games of school athletics for the city's youth and for area minor league baseball teams. Today, the site is the home to a wing of the Sebastian County Detention Center.

Governor-to-be Dr. C.H. Brough dedicated Stadium Park on May 11 following an "auto parade" that also included the high school's marching band.

As Mayor Henry C. Read gave his dedication speech on May 12 for the flag, it was run up a temporary pole at centerfield that was removed at the conclusion of ceremonies.

Before the dedication of the flag, nearly 1,000 school pupils performed a flag drill with each child carrying two miniature U.S. flags. Following it, 30 junior high school girls dressed all in red did a Red Bird dance in imitation of the postures and form of the cardinal.

The ceremonies at Stadium Park were preceded by a "long and impressive" parade of children that began in the 1300 block of Garrison Avenue and was led by school Superintendent G.W. Reid, acting as grand marshal. The parade turned south at Fifth Street then proceeded down Rogers Avenue before reaching the stadium. Bleachers were set aside at the park for the exclusive use of the children.

After the dedication, a baseball game between the Denison, Texas, team and the Fort Smith Twins was played. Denison and Fort Smith also competed again on Saturday, the last day of the New Era Celebration.

One final note, several hundred fans showed up on Saturday, May 6, 1916, to celebrate "Board Day," the baseball equivalent of a barnraising. Men and women pitched in to fence the park. Carpenters who had been working to build the stands donated a half day of labor to the cause. Everyone working together completed the fencing.

Source: "Athletic Field Fenced By Fans," Fort Smith Times Record, May 7, 1916, p. 1; "Municipal Flag Has Been Chosen," FSTR, May 9, 1916, p. 5; "Flag Day at the Stadium," FSTR, May 12, 1916, p. 1.