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‘Building bridges’ — Rally supports first responders

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Blair County Sheriff James Ott (left) and organizer Rod Barr of Altoona lead the unity march from Duncansville onto North Juniata Street to Legion Park in Hollidaysburg on Friday evening.

To show support for area law enforcement and first responders, people from around the area came together Friday evening to march to Legion Park in Hollidaysburg.

“With everything that is going on in this country, we needed a little positivity,” said Rod Barr, who, along with Anthony Evangelisto and Christy DeGennaro, helped organize “Building Bridges for the Community.”

It came together on short notice, DeGennaro said, as the ongoing COVID-19 situation made organizers unsure as to whether they would be able to hold the rally, which started with a march at 5:30 p.m. from the parking lot of Prime Sirloin Buffet near the Meadow’s intersection to nearby Legion Park in Hollidaysburg.

“We didn’t know how it could affect it,” DeGennaro said of the restrictions due to COVID-19. DeGennaro said food trucks and vendors were lined up and baskets were collected to raffle, an example of the generosity of local businesses who stepped up to give to the cause.

“We just kind of rolled with it,” Evangelisto said.

At the park, food trucks and vendors were waiting for those who braved the July heat to walk.

“It’s not about race, religion or politics,” said Barr, who carried a large “thin blue line” American flag for the march. “It’s just to get everyone to come together.”

Evangelisto said he hoped the turnout would have been better but with the event at the end of a workday, it was understandable. “At least people are showing up,” he said.

The organizers said it’s an event they want to repeat next year and see it grow.

After comments by Blair County Sheriff James Ott, who also helped organize the event, along with state Rep. Lou Schmitt, R-Altoona, singer Ricky Lee entertained with a few songs before a DJ kept the music playing into the night.

Standing while waving a “thin blue line” American flag atop a 12-foot flagpole, Huntingdon County resident Gary Hartman said he wanted to stand with the police and show them he supports them. The 67-year-old retiree said he moved from Long Island, N.Y., to McConnellstown about 1.5 years ago to live in a quiet, low-crime, rural community.

“I see the craziness that’s going on,” said Hartman, who was wearing a “Blue Lives Matter” T-shirt. “The police defend us all the time. I don’t like to see them get walked on.”

Hartman said he stands with the police and there can’t be a society without them.

Dave Metzger, “The Perogie Guy,” said all donations at his perogie stand were going to the Keystone Chapter of Guardians of the Children, the non-profit motorcycle organization that works to help victims of child abuse. Metzger said he wanted to show his support for the event and the first responders, who he said are vital to the community.

“Where would we be if they weren’t there?” Metzger asked.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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