It’s Russia’s turn in the Bicentennial Flag Run

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — The village of Russia will get its turn to participate in the Shelby County Bicentennial “Flag Run” on Saturday, Aug. 31.

The Shelby County Bicentennial has been celebrated in five of the eight county villages so far this year. One of the events running (literally) through each community’s festivities is the Flag Run which transports the Shelby County Flag through out each village in Shelby County.

On Saturday around 3 p.m., the flag will be ran by a five-member relay team of runners along the 20-mile-trek from McCartyville to Russia.

The run kicked off April 27 at the Sidney Middle School by taking the flag to the center of Hardin to recognize the community as the first county seat. From Hardin the flag has and will continue on the following route:

• Jackson Center — May 31;

• Botkins — June 7;

• Anna — June 14;

• Kettlersville — July 20;

• McCartyville —Aug. 10;

• Russia — Aug. 31.;

• Fort Loramie —Sept. 20;

• Lockington —Sept. 29.

The final leg of the Flag Run will end in the city of Sidney in February when Shelby County Bicentennial celebrations transitions to Sidney Bicentennial celebrations.

Craig Fiessinger, Russia relay team organizer, said knowing he was a runner, he was asked by Russia Mayor Terry Daugherty if he would assemble a team for Russia’s part in the Flag Run.

“We are not going to try to break any records, we’re just going to enjoy the journey,” Fiessinger said with a chuckle. “It will take about three hours to get the flag to Russia.”

Each community was given the task to transport the flag to their town with the freedom to be creative during the process, Fiessinger said. Earlier this summer, he said, the village of Jackson Center had the flag delivered by a skydiver to honor the late aviator Edward Korn, who along with his brother Milton, established Ohio’s first airport near Jackson Center back in the early 1900s.

Daughtery noted that given Russia’s “proud tradition in athletics, including, several high school runners who won state titles and one runner who became Ohio State University’s most accomplished women’s cross country runner in school history,” a relay team seemed an appropriate way to transport the flag.

Russia’s relay team will pick up the flag from its last stop of the run at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in McCartyville and take it across country back roads to Russia. The flag will arrive around 6 p.m. at the annual Russia Homecoming festival for a ceremony on picnic grounds.

In assembling the team, Daugherty emphasized village residents are extremely generous when it comes to service and Russia is particularly grateful for the volunteer fire department that includes 26 members. As a result, Fiessinger said the relay team consists of the following runners:

• Craig Fiessinger, creator of Russia’s Fish Report, a website dedicated to high school athletics;

• Amber Cordonnier, Russia Local School athletic director and former coach;

• Tom Phlipot, Russia Community Fire Company chief;

• Katie Barga, Russia track state champion and Ohio State University All-American;

• Emily Borchers, Russia track state champion and University of Dayton 5K and steeplechase record holder.

Each of the runners will carry the bicentennial flag approximately four miles. When the flag eventually reaches Russia, Daugherty will be waiting at the village office to escort passenger Charles Grogean, in a black Mustang convertible, a couple hundred yards to the flag’s destination at the Russia Homecoming festival.

Daugherty asked lifelong Russia resident Grogean, 94, and last World War II veteran living in the community, if he would participate to deliver the flag. Grogean agreed, Daughtery said.

“We thought since (Grogean) was the last veteran in town, and everyone seems to be more patriotic in last number of years than they used to be, that it would be a good thing,” Grogean said.

The Shelby County flag will be erected next to Russia’s official flag, Ohio’s flag and the U.S. flag in a tent to kick off the Russia Homecoming festival, Daugherty said.

Barga, life long resident of Russia, said she has gone to the Russia Homecoming festival every year, even during her college years, and is “so honored” to be a part of the Flag Run that kicks off the festival.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It will be a lot of fun and will be something I will remember for the rest of my life,” Barga said, who will hand off the flag to her sister Emily Borchers. Borchers will then bring the flag into Russia. “It’s pretty special that we both get to be part of it and that I get to hand it off to her.”

Plipot said although he is not a runner like the other members of the relay team, he was asked to participate and is always willing to help the community.

“I’m looking forward to it. It will be a good time. The fire department always has members who run in the 5K and we have a bucket brigade during Homecoming. But this run will only happen once. I’m always willing to help out,” Phlipot said.

Video and pictures of the flag journey, as well as the ability to follow Russia Homecoming can be found on Facebook, where Fiessinger hopes to post live updates during the event.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.