PAXTON — The organizer of Paxton’s Grand Old Flag project hopes that 2021 is the year that their flag start flying. Denny Kingren has set the dedication ceremony for this coming Memorial Day.
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The Grand Old Flag’s 150-foot flagpole went up last summer, on the west side of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School. The flagpole dwarfs the high school’s own flagpole on the east side of the building, and can easily be seen from I-57.
But Kingren says he doesn’t want to fly a flag from the giant flagpole without a dedication ceremony for the public that has supported the project with donations. Coronavirus precautions have forced them to delay any ceremony meant to draw a crowd, at the request of PBL school district superintendent Cliff McClure.
The dedication ceremony and parade has been initially scheduled for last summer, and then for Sept. 11th, before being rescheduled again for Memorial Day, 2021.
“We’re just kind of praying that by May, things have changed a little bit, lightened up where the school will allow it,” said Kingren, who is the longtime chief of the Paxton Fire Protection District. “And if it does, we’re going to have a big parade, and a ceremony out there at the site, and put the first flag up. So, we’re just hoping that happens.”
Kingren says he looks forward to a day when the “Grand Old Flag” flagpole is flying a flag that is both inspirational and an attention-getter for Paxton.
“And I think one day here, in the next few years, people will say, Paxton’s the community on 57’s got that big flag,” said Kingren. “So, between emergency responders and veterans, I just think it’ll mean a lot to everybody.”
Kingren says the inspiration for a giant flag on a tall flagpole came from seeing similar installations in other towns. Those include the Flags of Freedom in Princeton, Illinois, which flies flags from four 153-foot-tall flagpoles along I-80. In the Detroit suburb of New Baltimore, Michigan, a 160-foot-tall flagpole flies a flag near I-94 and Lake St. Clair. And in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the Acuity Insurance Flagpole near I-43 along Lake Michigan is 400-feet tall, and billed as the tallest flagpole in North America.
Kingren says if a ceremony for Paxton’s Grand Old Flag is still not possible this Memorial Day, they may start flying the flag anyway, and hold the ceremony later.
Meanwhile, fundraising continues for the Paxton flag project. Donors can buy bricks with personalized messages that will be laid at the base of the flagpole. Kingren says about 230 of the fundraising bricks have been sold so far, at $100 for a 4 by 8 inch brick, and $250 for an 8 by 8 inch brick. Bricks can be ordered through the thatsmybrick.com website.
Kingren says about $60,000 has been spent so far on the Paxton Grand Old Flag project, with about $50,000 of that going towards buying and erecting the flagpole. He says the next major expenditure will be the purchase of from four to six flags, measuring 30 by 60 feet each, and costing around $1,500 apiece. Kingren describes the flags as “about the size of a nice ranch home,” and ten times the size of the flag the Paxton Fire Protection District displays from its ladder truck at various public events.
Kingren says each flag will be taken down from the flagpole when it starts to get worn, and mended so it can be flown presentably again.