BOONTON, NJ (Morris County) – Peter Clear’s inspiration and connection to the American Flag dates back before there was an American Flag — or even an America — as his ancestors came to Plymouth, Mass. on the Mayflower in 1620.
The fifth grade student from John Hill School in Boonton has been named the Grand Prize winner of the 15th annual PNC Bank “American Patriot Essay Contest,” a statewide competition sponsored by the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank in which school children in grades 2 through 12 throughout New Jersey wrote about “What the American Flag Means to Me.”
His family’s ancestry — he is descended from William Brewster on his maternal great-grandmother’s side (Peter’s middle name is Brewster) and on his maternal great-grandfather’s side has ancestors that were on the Speedwell — and as well as opportunities to raise the American Flag at Fort McHenry provided the inspiration for Peter’s winning essay.
As part of his Grand Prize, the Festival and PNC Bank brought a 75-foot-tall hot air balloon to his school Wednesday, where he took a tethered ride in the balloon in front of his family, hundreds of classmates, school and board of education officials.
His moving essay was selected the best among the thousands of essays received by a panel of judges comprised of PNC Bank and Balloon Festival staff and educators. The contest was held as part of PNC’s community outreach efforts through its association with the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning.
Clear also receives a free ride to go up, up and away in one of the 100 hot air balloons at the 36th annual festival, July 27-28-29, in Readington, NJ, along with VIP tickets for his family. Each of his 21 classmates, his teacher, and his school principal receive free tickets to the annual Festival, the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America.
“Over the years we’ve had students who were inspired by family members, whether they served in the military or immigrated to this country, but Peter is the first to be inspired by and trace his family roots all the way back to the Mayflower,” said Festival Executive Producer Howard Freeman. “It was extremely heartfelt to see the very personal meaning the flag and his family have to him. His essay best captured the spirit of both the contest and American flag and QuickChek, PNC and the festival are proud to present him with this award.”
“The PNC American Patriot Essay Contest gives students across New Jersey the chance to display their love of country and their skill with words,” said Joe Whall, PNC Senior Vice President and Director of Client & Community Relations. “We are delighted to support the essay contest as part of our overall sponsorship of the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank. Talent and patriotism are indeed alive and well in the Garden State.”
Nathan Boms, a fourth grade student at Atlantic Highlands Elementary School in Atlantic Highlands, took second place. Daniella Lim from River Dell High School in Oradell was third. They each receive complimentary admission into the Festival, as do all teachers in the state who submitted 15 or more essays on behalf of their students.
Additional information on the contest and the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank visit balloonfestival.com.