Celebrate the Spirit of ’45 with a kiss

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published August 10, 2016

 A 25-foot statue of the iconic Embracing Peace photograph was lifted into place June 20 at Memorial Park in Royal Oak. The statue, created by artist Seward Johnson, will be the site of a Spirit of ’45 celebration and event 1 p.m. Aug. 14.

A 25-foot statue of the iconic Embracing Peace photograph was lifted into place June 20 at Memorial Park in Royal Oak. The statue, created by artist Seward Johnson, will be the site of a Spirit of ’45 celebration and event 1 p.m. Aug. 14.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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ROYAL OAK — The city will be home to a grand Spirit of ’45 Day celebration this weekend, carrying forward a tradition sanctioned by Congress six years ago.

Communities across the nation will be remembering all who played an important role on the battlefield and on the home front during the World War II era following the unanimous decision by lawmakers in 2010 to proclaim the second Sunday of August for that purpose.

In honor of the special day, the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial is inviting the public to join it in a massive re-enactment of the kiss that marked the end of the war, as depicted in the 25-foot Embracing Peace statue.

The statue, created by artist Seward Johnson, was delivered to Memorial Park in June. Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial members knew the statue would provide the perfect opportunity to honor the special occasion.

The event, “Kissing the War Goodbye,” will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at Memorial Park, at the northeast corner of 13 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue.

“It’s a great opportunity to participate in something kind of fun,” said Russell Levine, vice president of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial.

Event organizers said the formal program will begin at 1:30 p.m. with brief remarks on the baseball diamond adjacent to the sculpture, followed by the kissing re-enactment at 2 p.m. Dressing up as a sailor, nurse or in other 1945-style garb is encouraged, but not required. 

Russell Levine said they are looking forward to hosting the event because of the importance the day holds, and to bring awareness of the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial organization.

The group has been working toward reaching a $3 million budgeted goal to build a permanent WWII Legacy Memorial at the Royal Oak park.

“We think the money is out there. It’s just a matter of finding the right individuals who have both the interest and the means to help us, and our theory is that it is kind of hard to miss a 25-foot statue, so maybe someone will notice and wonder what is going on in Memorial Park,” Levine said.

Levine said the Sunday event is just one of many celebrations going on around the world on Spirit of ’45 Day, especially in communities that have Seward Johnson sculptures depicting the Times Square kiss. 

The free event will feature special messages; certificates of participation; T-shirts, pins and hats for sale; veterans; Rosie the Riveters; and WWII re-enactors. Levine said discounted Walk of Honor bricks may be purchased during the event.

Levine said awareness about what the organization is trying to do at Memorial Park has increased since the Embracing Peace statue was placed in the park near Woodward Avenue.

“We’ve had a huge amount of uptick in people approaching us, so obviously the coverage we’ve had has been phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of activity about people asking questions about it and talking to us about it, and this is just another opportunity for us to do that as well.”

The entire organization is hopeful for a large crowd this weekend, not only to learn more about the memorial, but to see a large crowd re-enact the kiss at the base of the statue.

“What a great way to celebrate the anniversary of the end of the war. We are looking forward to a huge turnout,” Debi Hollis, president of the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial, said in a statement.

To learn more about the “Kissing the War Goodbye” event, visit www.michiganww2memorial.org.

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