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<strong>OH, SAGE, CAN YOU SEE: </strong>A giant flag flutters above Wal-Mart in Avon, with the surrounding sage-encrusted hillsides as a majestic backdrop.
OH, SAGE, CAN YOU SEE: A giant flag flutters above Wal-Mart in Avon, with the surrounding sage-encrusted hillsides as a majestic backdrop.
David O. Williams
Patriotic pratfalls in paradise
By David O. Williams

August 15, 2004 — Oh, say, can you see …

Not very well these days, according to some miffed residents of Eagle-Vail and Avon, where an American flag the size of a double-wide trailer flutters atop a 150-foot flagpole, allegedly obscuring mountain views to the north of the Village at Avon development and threatening to all but blot out the bright Colorado sun.

By the dawn's early light …

That very same sun rose one morning in late July on a naked purple pole, which infamously was erected at the south end of the parking lot between Home Depot and Super Wal-Mart.

Lowered by a protestor (or protestors), the flag was cut down, bagged, and a note was placed on it reportedly questioning the appropriateness of flying a flag for commercial purposes. While Wal-Mart’s price-slashing smiley face has yet to adorn this version of Old Glory, critics say it’s only a matter of time.

What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?

Magnus Lindholm, Village at Avon developer, Swedish shipping magnate and the largest private property owner in Eagle County, told one local paper he saw the flag freely fluttering the night before and blamed the flag-knapping on a bunch of socialist Democrats who don’t like the flag.

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,

Not broad or bright enough for some. A patriotic crowd, including 30 veterans and Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter, gathered July 3 to dedicate the flag, which was originally supposed to fly atop a 210-foot pole. Those plans were scrapped when it was discovered a pole that high would require a blinking light to warn off low-flying aircraft.

Carpenter explained to the local press that the flagpole was modeled after a battleship mast. Avon resident Walter Dandy was unimpressed, peacefully protesting the use of the flag as a big-box ad banner until he was forced from the property by Avon police.

O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?

OK, we’re not exactly talking Fort McHenry here. The defense of that Baltimore stronghold during the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the Star-Spangled Banner.

The war of words that raged in Eagle County last summer occurred over less hallowed ground – the Village at Avon – one of the largest developments on Colorado’s Western Slope, where more than 2,000 new homes and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space will ultimately be built. A deeper issue for some flag bashers seems to be the loss of the Vail Valley’s ski-town soul to that scale of suburban-style development.

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

While no shots had been fired at press time, Vail Valley residents – where 37 percent of active voters are registered Republicans, 27 percent are Democrats and 36 percent are independent - were clearly divided on the great flag debate.

The publisher of one local paper pointed the finger of blame in the flag lowering at an unidentified “local liberal communist.” While the editor of another paper said the pole is like a giant middle finger to the community.

Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.

Many letter writers to local papers love the new flag and are equally pleased to buy cheaper groceries, hardware and diapers at the big-box complex. Lindholm is unfazed by the critics, promising discount gas and liquor are on the way as well.

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

And after the unceremonious flag-lowering protest, Lindholm’s staff promptly ordered five more flags to have on call in case a more insidious demonstrator does what the Brits couldn’t at Fort McHenry.

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Or in this case, the land of the deeply discounted (thanks to Super Wal-Mart) and Home (Depot) of the brave.



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