Flag project sews simple message of American spirit

Flag project sews simple message of American spirit

In the Wooster Rotary Club's annual Parade of Flags project, which enters its 13th season, five patriotic holidays will be celebrated by placing thousands of American flags throughout the city.


Wars were fought over it.

Songs have been written about it.

Betsy Ross emerged the nation’s most commemorated seamstress because of it.

Americans love their flag — the pre-eminent badge of freedom in the United States and throughout the world. From reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to waving Old Glory at a ball game, proud patriots everywhere delight in seeing the Stars and Stripes on display in all its colorful splendor.

To that end, members of the Wooster Rotary Club once again are stirring up support for their Parade of Flags project, which enters its 13th season. Between Memorial Day in May and Veterans Day in November, five patriotic holidays will be celebrated by placing thousands of American flags throughout the city.

“The most rewarding part of the project is the feedback from community members,” said Susan Marlar, a Rotarian who’s been involved in the Parade of Flags since its inception in 2009.

Though Marlar can’t recall when she earned the title, she serves as the official chairman of the endeavor.

“Our first holiday started with 300 flags, and the first year ended with 850. We have been at 2,000 for several years,” Marlar said, looking ahead to the 2021 charity effort that will involve countless local supporters before all is said and done.

“The collaboration of all the groups involved has made this truly a community project,” Marlar said. “We have youth groups, other civic organizations, families and school groups in addition to Rotarians placing flags. The Wayne Career Center students assemble the flagpoles. Ray Crow launders the soiled flags. The city and schools allow for flags to be placed at buildings and entrances to the city. It is much more than a Rotary project at this point.”

The annual Parade of Flags thrives, thanks to the generosity of its subscribers. All profits support community, national and international Rotary projects. The local groups that help with placing the flags will receive $12 for each subscription. A patron’s overall donation is $40 per calendar year (not pro-rated by holiday).

The Wooster Rotary Club and its various helpers will place a 3-by-5-foot flag in each subscriber’s front yard for five holidays each year and pick it up again after the holiday. Participants may sign up for more than one flag if they wish.

A plastic pipe will be buried permanently in the front lawn, flush with the ground, to hold the flagstaff. A cap will cover the pipe when not in use. The City of Wooster has approved the flag to be placed on “tree lawns” where available. The flag and staff will remain the property of the Wooster Rotary Club.

“It’s our biggest fundraising project,” said Rotarian Joie Schmitz, who’s been involved about two years. Her expertise in marketing has kept the Parade of Flags in the public eye.

“It’s quite an undertaking. Our assistants are very diverse, from the Triway band to Scout troops, 4-H clubs, sport teams and businesses. Two days before the flag holiday, our people go out to distribute the flags. It’s very organized. There are route leaders, and everybody has a specific route,” Schmitz said.

Marlar said more than 2,000 flags go out to homes and businesses each holiday. Another 250 or so are placed at schools, municipal buildings, nonprofits and other city locations.

If only Betsy, credited for having stitched the first American flag, knew she would become such a superstar.

While accounts vary, Ross family tradition holds that Gen. George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and two members of a congressional committee (Robert Morris and John Ross) visited Mrs. Ross in 1776. The seamstress convinced Washington to change the shape of the stars that were in a sketch of a flag he showed her — from six-pointed to five-pointed. The thinking was that it was easier and speedier to cut the latter.

There apparently is no archival evidence to substantiate this story of the first American flag. Some say the story first surfaced in the writings of her grandson in the 1870s (a century after the fact).

Ross made flags for the Pennsylvania Navy during the American Revolution, and ultimately, she crafted U.S. flags for more than 50 years.

In the end the Parade of Flags in Wooster sews a simple message: wave the flag and let the American spirit shine.

“Subscribers view the flag display as a love for country,” Marlar said. “Military family feedback is especially touching.”

Or to quote an unnamed subscriber: “It is an outstanding visual showing the respect, caring and concern for all who served and are serving our country.”

Those needing additional information should call 330-264-6535. Subscription details also are available at www.woosterrotary.org.

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