By Gwen Lawler Tough
Story: Gwen Lawler-Tough
Redding's Majestic Enterprise Flag
Driving on I-5, it catches you unawares: The sight of our huge American flag flying high over the land. In these moments, you share the pride that patriots have felt since Betsy Ross sewed the Stars and Stripes.
The Enterprise Flag, bordering Interstate 5 on North Bechelli Lane, has flown since Sept. 11, 2002. The Enterprise Lions Club is the steward of the flag, but as President Mike Ferrier emphasizes, “We don’t own it; it belongs to everyone.”
But one man in particular is responsible for the flag, Ferrier says. “Victor Ogrey made that flag happen,” he says. One day, shortly after September 11, 2001, Ogrey stopped at the Redding firefighters’ donation site at the corner of Dana and Hilltop drives. The firefighters were flying a large flag at the top of a fire truck ladder. As Ogrey sipped his morning Chai across the street, he decided that Redding needed a flag waving in a highly visible place. Permanently.
Ogrey had recently joined the Redding Lions Club, which heartily endorsed the idea that Ogrey presented to them. His goal for this ambitious undertaking was to have the flagpole completed and ready for the first anniversary of 9/11. His first priority was finding the perfect spot. The Redding First Church of the Nazarene, which owned land north of its Bechelli Lane church, quickly approved a five-year lease, with a token $1-per-year rent.
In the meantime, the Lions contracted with The Colonial Flag Company near Salt Lake City to make the first giant flag and steel flagpole. The flagpole alone cost $21,760. It was time to raise money. It was now August 2002, and only one month was left before the 9/11 anniversary. The Lions decided on a one-day, dawn-to-dusk drive-through fundraiser. Their faith in the North State community was rewarded: In one day, they collected $28,600, more than enough to fund the project.
The Lions’ goal was not just to fly a big flag, but to have a “perfect presentation.” This means that the flag size must be one-quarter the height of the pole. In this case, with the aboveground portion of the pole 120 feet tall (12 feet lie below the ground), the 50-foot-long flag must be 30 feet tall. If placed next to Redding’s tallest building – the Shasta County Jail – the flag would be taller.
Another aspect of the “perfect presentation” is that the flag flies after dark, because it is fully lit. Redding Electric Utility donates the 3,000 watts of light that keeps the flag beautifully illuminated at night.
There is a cost to upkeep. “We won’t fly a tattered flag,” Ferrier says. Although Dot Lanham of Redding repairs small tears in her garage shop, flags suffer wear and tear just by flying next to a major freeway. An average of 8,000 semi-trucks contribute diesel fumes to the air on a daily basis; the Lions have found out through experience that washing will not clean this out. And then there is the weather. One flag lasted only a week because of a major tear due to wind. Flags are made of a heavy polyester material for winter, but there are still casualties.
The Shasta Regional Community Foundation set up a foundation to pay for the flag expenses. The fund has about $75,000 and needs $150,000 to cover expenses without depleting the principal. The average cost of flags runs about $6,000 annually.
On September 11, 2002, the Enterprise Lions dedicated the new flag. In the years since then, Ogrey says there have been many moving moments, but a few stand out. The flag has flown at half-staff in honor of several local men who gave their lives for their country. At the end of the day, after the funeral is over, the families are invited to come to the flagpole for a special ceremony. They help crank the flag back up to full staff, and the flag continues to wave in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Flag donations can be made to: Shasta Regional Community Foundation/Flag Fund 1335 Arboretum Drive, Suite B Redding, CA 96003 • (530) 244-1219