By BRAD KELLAR
One Greenville neighborhood, already known for its patriotic decorations each summer, has been bathed in additional red, white and blue for the past two Independence Days.
Runners participating in a July 4 event this year were also able to “follow the flags” which outlined the race route, up one side and down the other of a downtown Greenville overpass carrying the name of an American hero from Hunt County.
Tim Kruse has been behind the effort to line local streets with American flags, after getting started adorning the Park Street neighborhood in 2012.
The stretch of Park between Stonewall Street and Moulton Avenue traditionally is decked out in more flags, banners, bunting and ribbons on Independence Day than anywhere else in town, as it hosts the larger of two annual local parades on the nation’s birthday.
But Kruse, who lives on Park Street, thought there were a few gaps along the way. So, on his own, he added 100 examples of the Stars and Stripes, to go along with those posted by Greenville’s Daybreak Rotary Club and other residents along the parade route.
“I always thought Park Street looked really good with the flags,” Kruse said.
Kruse got the idea from watching a segment on the CBS Sunday Morning show about Larry Eckhardt, who for years has traveled to soldiers’ funerals in Illinois and surrounding states, providing flags along the path the soldier’s body will travel.
Before moving to Greenville about seven years ago, Kruse worked as head of operations for the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a two week festival celebrating the Fourth of July with various events and activities around the city. Kruse also serves as secretary for the Park Street Historical Association.
Kruse watches the Park Street parade from the front yard of his residence, providing the crowd with free hot dogs and lemonade. He has taken donations in the past, forwarding them on to the Park Street Historical Association or Cause for Paws.
After last year’s effort, some folks wanted to thank Kruse by also donating toward the new flags, but Kruse was already thinking ahead to what he could do for 2013.
Shortly before Memorial Day, Kruse started a project to add 300 American flags in the green spaces along the Audie Murphy Overpass, with a plan to line both Johnson and Stonewall Streets between Park Street and downtown Greenville.
Kruse wanted a patriotic display worthy of a town with an abundance of veterans and active duty residents, and also wanted to pay respect to fallen soldiers. He placed a few flags on his own along the overpass to announce a fundraising campaign, in hopes of obtaining the $2,000 needed for the effort. Kruse said those who wanted a flag to honor a specific veteran or family could do so for as little as $10.
It didn’t take long for local individuals, businesses and organizations to chip in. Soon, Kruse and fellow Park Street resident Mike Spaight were spending their evenings planting the flags, a few at a time, along the overpass and motorists marveled at being able to drive into and out of downtown through rows of the Star-Spangled Banner.
The flags also served to mark out the route of the July 4 Firecracker 5K, presented by the City of Greenville Parks and Recreation Department, which began and ended on Park Street.
Kruse made sure to give much of the credit to his wife Aletha.
“She has been a tremendous help with the project,” Kruse said. “She did an amazing job helping with the fundraising and has been there the whole way while I’ve worked on assembling and putting the flags out.”
Last week, Kruse enlisted the aid of the Greenville-Area Independent Destination ImagiNation team, the “Nerd Herd,” to attach plaques of appreciation to the flags, thanking all of those who donated, as well as those whom contributors chose to honor with a flag.
“There’s one here for a current POW,” Kruse said.
Even though the Independence Day holiday has passed, local residents will be able to continue to enjoy the beauty of the American flags for a few more days.
“They probably will be up through about mid-July,” Kruse said, already looking ahead to July, 4, 2014. “I’ll try to put them back up again between Memorial Day and July 4 next year ... and try to add to them if I can.”
Kruse’s campaign has a Facebook page set up at www.facebook.com/GreenvilleFlags.