When a huge American flag was raised downtown on Feb. 9, it got people talking. When it came down about three weeks later, they were talking again. Now a new, smaller flag raised in its place has led to even more questions.
As it turns out, there were several reasons the original 30×60-foot flag was lowered. According to Rhinelander Fire Chief Terry Williams, not only had the large flag already sustained a 10-inch rip due to high winds, the sheer size of the flag meant it didn’t follow proper flag etiquette.
“After researching it, we found that proper flag etiquette dictates that the flag’s length should not exceed a quarter of the total length of the pole,” said Williams. “When the larger flag was lowered to half-mast, it would actually make contact with the electronics shelter below the pole. That’s a problem.”
After lowering the flag, Williams said he and the members of his department fielded hundreds of questions from area citizens wondering what had happened. Some, he said, were genuinely upset, even blaming Fire Department personnel for taking the flag down.
“When we took it down, the weather report was calling for 40 mile per hour winds. Truth be told, had that flag stayed up, it would have been torn to shreds,” said Williams. “At $2,000 each, that’s a pretty sizable loss.”
According to Williams, Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns and Parks Director Gunder Paulsen made the decision to purchase the smaller, 20×38-foot flag that doesn’t have near the wind resistance issues caused by the larger flag. Williams suggested that it may be possible to fly the larger flag in the summer months, when the weather isn’t as severe.
However, at a Wednesday meeting of the city’s Parking Advisory Board, the group came to the consensus that, given the issues concerning etiquette and wear, it would likely be in the city’s best interest to forego flying the larger flag permanently.
“The Mayor has been working closely with several area veterans groups to make sure we were following the proper etiquette,” said Sue Bessert, the Executive Director of Downtown Rhinelander Inc. “While we all loved seeing the huge flag waving above the city, we have to do what is right, too. The new flag, while a little smaller, still creates a striking visual downtown.”
Bessert said that representatives from the committee will soon get in contact with AT&T to determine if they can possibly find a home for the two larger flags purchased by AT&T that the city has on hand.
“AT&T is putting these types of towers up all over the place, so the hope is that a different community may be able to use the flags on possibly a higher pole,” said Bessert. “This was just a bump in the road. We can all still be very proud of the way everyone has come together to help see this project through.”
Editor Craig Mandli is available at email@example.com.