ELLSWORTH — Residents along Route 1 could be forgiven for thinking a cataclysmic event had occurred Sunday morning due to the symphony of sirens that filled the air.
The sirens were not for a five-alarm fire, however, but rather the annual Wreaths Across America convoy as it began its journey from Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
More than 50 police and fire department vehicles provided an escort for the convoy, which for the first time made a stop in Ellsworth for a brief ceremony in the parking lot of the Maine Coast Mall on High Street.
The convoy passed underneath a giant American flag held high by the ladders of two local fire trucks, one from Ellsworth and the other from Bar Harbor. Veterans saluted as the more than two dozen tractor-trailer trucks carrying wreaths passed under the flag, and the crowd behind them waved and cheered.
Susan Farley, executive director of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, welcomed those in attendance and introduced Ellsworth High School student Emily Young, who sang the national anthem.
Farley asked veterans in the audience to stand or raise their hands to be recognized.
In front of the mall were two lines of wreaths. In each line there was one wreath for each branch of the country’s armed forces. Dan Sullivan and Richard Butters, from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 109 in Ellsworth and American Legion Post 207 in Trenton, respectively, accepted the wreaths and said they would be displayed at local veterans memorials.
Pastor Bob Maddocks offered a prayer and blessing to the convoy, wishing them safe travels as they made their journey from Maine to the mid-Atlantic. The convoy is scheduled to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Bagpiper David Weeda played “Amazing Grace” and George Stevens Academy student Jackson Billings played “Taps” on his trumpet before the ceremony concluded.
Farley estimated the crowd at Sunday’s event had more than 300 people in it.
The convoy’s next stop was the veterans memorial on the waterfront in Bucksport. In between the Maine Coast Mall and there, people lined the road along the side of Route 1 to see the convoy pass by.
Residents sat in lawn chairs at the end of their driveways, or in their cars or on the back of their pickup trucks. Some held flags in their hands while others had flags attached to their vehicles. One boy held a New England Patriots flag in his hand.
At the Orland town line, trucks from the Orland Fire Department waited to join the convoy, and vehicles from the Bucksport Fire Department also joined the convoy in Orland.
The convoy at that point totaled more than 115 vehicles — 20-plus EMS and fire trucks, more than two dozen police cruisers from across the state, over two dozen tractor-trailer trucks carrying wreaths and another 40-plus vehicles that included motorcycles.