Minutemen’s Pole Capping Features a Re-Capping

April 10, 2023

Saturday’s annual pole capping ceremony at Willson Park in Bedford is a commemoration of the colonial period and the events that led to the American Revolution. 

Pole capping, organized by the Bedford Minuteman Company, is the first in a series of celebrations that take place in the area every April, leading to the anniversary of the battles that launched the Revolution in 1775.

This year’s Bedford ceremony, however, included a twist.

Six Bedford High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps were part of Saturday’s pole capping. By design, it took more than one attempt to get the red cap on the pole. This was done as a way to get more students involved and also provide a strong message about teamwork. Courtesy photo by Chris Gittins

Six Bedford High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps members were involved in pole capping this year. They not only carried the pole to Willson Park, but also member Koa Zumwalt, a junior, climbed to the top. Once at the summit of the pole, he waved the red cap around – until it seemingly slipped from his hand and slowly floated down to the ground. 

The crowd of several hundred was stunned at what had just taken place. Most were convinced that this was an accident caused by an over-excited high schooler – who was “arrested” by British re-enactors when he returned to the ground.

Minutes later, another student, senior Selima Chan, made their way up the pole and finally put the knit red cap on top. 

When asked about this later, the team revealed that the whole scenario was planned as a way to get more students involved and also provide a strong message about teamwork. 

It was clear how much it meant to the JROTC students to be involved in this event. Zumwalt said, “I am excited to take part in this ceremony that has been carried out faithfully for so many years by the Minutemen. I think re-enactments like this keep our history fresh in our minds.”

The main speaker of the day was Select Board Chair Bopha Malone, whose speech encapsulated the significance of the pole-capping tradition. Courtesy photo by Chris Gittins

This year’s ceremony was attended by members of the Select Board, the School Committee, and other town and state officials. Master of ceremonies was Jim Ringwood, first lieutenant of the Bedford Minutemen.

The main speaker of the day was Select Board Chair Bopha Malone, whose speech encapsulated the significance of the pole capping tradition. Malone arrived in the United States at age nine with her parents, refugees from an oppressive government in Cambodia.

“Having grown up in a country where the government failed its people, my experience has given me a deep sense of appreciation for those brave men and women who would defy the British empire to fight for and win independence for a new nation rooted in democratic ideals and self-determination,” she said. 

The first speakers were State Sen. Michael J. Barrett and State Rep. Ken Gordon, who emphasized the message of hard work and the ongoing fight for the American dream. 

Other highlights were the presentation of the Marian Bryan Citizenship Award to BHS senior Danielle DiGangi and Town Historian Sharon McDonald leading a “true or false” game with the crowd. Bryan served as a substitute teacher in the Bedford schools for decades.

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Toby Favalora is a Bedford High School, Class of 2024 student.

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April 11, 2023 9:24 am

Great story and great images! I love learning about Bopha’s heritage. We are naturalized citizens too – my husband is Canadian and I am Cuban – so to see her at the helm of Bedford’s Select Board is exciting. A great example of how there is opportunity in America and how Bedford’s ancestors were a big part of giving us such freedoms.

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