BAGHDAD - For the first time in nearly four years, residents from across Baghdad gathered together to honor their city's heritage and celebrate the once-annual holiday known simply as Baghdad Day, Nov. 17.

The celebration, which was held at Zawra Park featured music and art native to the city, as well as displays depicting historical Iraqi dress, traditions and occupations.

"From what I understand, it was done before the war and the last time was before 2003, so this is a big day for them," explained Capt. Amy Cronin, the special projects officer for the 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

Cronin, a Carlisle, Pa., native, and her unit have been providing support to the Zawra Park complex, which includes the Baghdad Zoo, since March, and were invited to take part in the festivities by the park's director.

"We asked them if they needed any help with security, and as far as funding to get anything ready, but they did it all on their own," she said.

The highlight of the morning was an address by the country's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.

In his speech, Maliki emphasized that the citizens of Baghdad need to continue to work hard every day toward the goal of restoring Baghdad to a peaceful city.

He also promised the crowd more improvements to the city in the coming year, as Baghdad is slated to receive $800 million for reconstruction projects in 2008.

"I feel like this is history-making right now, especially with Maliki here," Cronin said. "I think he had a great message to the folks out here. He really urged the Iraqis to step up and work hard to take Baghdad back, and really his message was that it's just in the hands of the Iraqis, so the harder they work the quicker they're going to get Baghdad back."

Even the youngest members of the crowd appreciated Maliki's message. Ibrahim, an eight-year old boy, said he and his family came to Zawra Park to visit the zoo, but hearing Maliki's speech was the most exciting part of the day.

"I like the celebration here," he said. "I hope for good things for Iraq."