No big flag flying this year? Ridgefield leader gives explanation, update
In another year — 2019, for example — the absence of the giant American flag that has traditionally draped Ridgefield’s Town Hall from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July might not have drawn as much interest or speculation.
But at this moment in 2020 — when the nation is confronting its history in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the protests and public outrage that followed — flags have taken on added symbolism and debate: Mississippi recently retired its 126-year-old state flag, which included the Confederate battle emblem, and President Donald Trump has suggested legislation be enacted to make burning the American flag a crime punishable by at least one year in jail.
So even though that out-sized version of the Stars and Stripes (20-feet wide and 40-feet long) hasn’t graced the front of town hall since late July 2018, it’s non-appearance this year has generated questions, complaints and criticism on social media and calls and emails to the selectman’s office. Several online commenters have even wondered whether First Selectman Rudy Marconi, a Democrat, has purposefully withheld displaying the American flag as a rebuke to President Trump.
“Some people clearly have too much free time,” Marconi said during a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I can assure them that there is no conspiracy going on here.”
The big American flag, which bathed Main Street in a patriotic glow for several decades, has not been hung since two stately Siberian Elm trees were diagnosed with wood rot and removed from in front of town hall at the end of July 2018. A guide wire running between the trees was used to support the flag.
“We’ve been looking at different options since then but nothing has worked out, Marconi said. “There’s no way to plant existing trees that are that big, and adding two more flagpoles would give us four [flagpoles] in front of town hall and look terrible. There’s also a question of whether two new flagpoles would be strong enough to support the big flag when it’s stretched between them.”
A smaller American flag flies year-round on one of the existing flagpoles, and the Connecticut state flag hangs on the other.
Marconi said a possible solution for restoring the large flag has come from Chris Curnan, an artist who lives in Ridgefield.
“Chris Curnan had the idea of attaching two pieces of channel iron to the roof of town hall and using that to hang the flag,” Marconi said. “We think it might work.”
Marconi said he began discussing the project with Danbury-based Di Salvo Engineering before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted.
“We will resume those discussions when we can,” Marconi said. “We can’t do anything without having structural engineers approve the project.
“In the meantime, we are still open for suggestions,” Marconi said. “I’m sure there are some smart people out there, so if anyone has a good idea they can submit it.”