Banner Day returns, brings out the fans

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Danny and Samantha Hodurski posed with Mr. Met on Banner Day. THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
Danny and Samantha Hodurski posed with Mr. Met on Banner Day.

Wearing a sparking golden crown and wielding a play horse, 1971 Banner Day winner Debby Brandon stood in line on the outskirts of Citi Field for the event’s return.

The contest, which was halted in 1996 but revived this year for the team’s 50th anniversary, featured more than 300 Mets fans parading around Citi Field with signs of their love and commitment to the team.

Brandon, 53, was devastated when the event was halted, but rejoiced in its return on Sunday, May 27.

“We’re thrilled,” Brandon, a resident of Middle Village, said. “We used to enter all the time.”

She entered the contest this year with a theme based on the Triple Crown, referring to the possibility of the Mets winning a third World Series title this year.

The event brought back memories of when she won Banner Day when she was just 12 years old.

Back then, Brandon dressed up in a handmade Mr. Met costume with her friend, who sported a Statue of Liberty outfit.

As they walked across the diamond, Brandon held a banner which read in colorful, bubble print “Even the Lady is a Mets fan,” while her friend held one that said “Come on baby light my fire,” – in reference to the popular song by “The Doors.”

The contest judges loved the idea and the girls won a trip to Puerto Rico.

They took one more person with them on the trip, Lynn Rapkiewicz, Brandon’s sister and the inventor of the idea.

“It was a good idea,” Rapkiewicz said. “We’re real New Yorkers and the whole idea was the Statue of Liberty represents all of New York, and to us New York is always the New York Mets.”

For the return of Banner Day the sisters attempted to win top prize again while also passing down the tradition.

Rapkiewicz, 63, thought of a similar idea for her grandchildren, Danny and Samantha Hodurski. Because the event ran on Memorial Day Weekend, Danny, 9, dressed up as Uncle Sam and Samantha, 7, wore the Lady Liberty costume.

“Baseball is all about tradition,” Rapkiewicz said. “It was rewarding for me to see my grandchildren become part of the next generation of Mets fans.”

The kids held a banner that said “I want to yell ‘yippie’ for the next 50 years.”

Although it did not win the top prize, when the youngsters walked the warning track on Citi Field, fans yelled “yippie” in response.

Fans reminisced and traded similar stories as they waited for the competition to start.

Mary and Roger Bow, a husband and wife pair from Bayside, entered Banner Day in 1984 when they were just high school friends.

Two years later they married and more than a decade after that they had a child.

Now the entire family, including son Andy, now 14, participated in the contest with a revamped version of the couple’s original banner – a Mets influenced rendering of the famous picture of soldiers planting the American flag after World War II.

“This is so exciting,” Andy said “I love how my parents have been doing this since they were so young and how I get to be a part of it.”

Banner Day participants were so happy with the return that they wished the event would come to stay.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Rapkiewicz said. “The Mets, I think more than anybody, have been about the fans. To have them bring this back is great.”