Broad Stripes and Bright Stars in Bigfork

By Beacon Staff

BIGFORK – On a recent Friday morning here, there are a few tourists shopping on Electric Avenue and some workers making final improvements to a building for the busy summer season. But, for the most part, it’s quiet.

Quiet, that is, until Jerry Murphy and David Vale unveil an American flag from the second story balcony of Grille 459.

“Good morning,” Vale says into a microphone that echoes across town. “Recall, for a moment, the history of the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner.”

Moments later, Murphy, Vale and Tonja King belt out the lines to the national anthem, just as they will every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until August. The morning performances, which begin at 10:15 a.m. sharp, were the idea of Murphy, 81, who moved to Bigfork seven years ago and said he simply doesn’t hear the song enough these days.

“I’ve always loved to sing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ and it’s very meaningful to me,” Murphy said. “There is just something electrifying about the song.”

Murphy came up with the idea about a month ago and decided to talk to Vale, co-owner of Pocketstone Cafe. Together, they were able to secure the balcony of Grille 459 and some sound equipment from the local chamber of commerce. Vale jokes that with the speakers, “it allows us to be heard in Polson if we want.”

Singing with Murphy and Vale on occasion is King, a local music teacher, who adds another voice to the rotation of singers who will make appearances on the balcony over the summer.

“I thought this was just a wonderful thing for our community and our country,” she said. “I think it’s great for a small community to show some patriotism.”

That patriotism will be on display every weekend this summer at 10:15 a.m. The performances usually last about five minutes, just enough time to make a few remarks and sing the song, perhaps even twice if there’s enough demand.

“I think it would be nice if we could get the locals to sing (the song) for just a few minutes a day,” Murphy said.

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