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01 July, 2014

IN SOUTHAMPTON THE CANADIAN FLAG FLIES HIGH...VERY HIGH


Anyone who has visited Southampton during summer months will have marveled at the towering Canadian flag on the Shores of Lake Huron at the foot of High Street.
As with any change, the establishing and raising of a gigantic Canada flag was a contentious issue in Southampton on the Lake Huron coast in the 1970's.  While many thought it a "hair-brained scheme" there were others who thought it a perfect way to celebrate Southampton's 135th anniversary, with a 135 ft. flag pole to mark each year of the town, topped by a giant 25 x 50 ft. flag weighing in excess of 50 pounds.

While the original flag was raised by a manual crank, today it is electrically operated.  The project was conceived of by residents Ron and Thead Seaman, Ted Quenell and Frank Eagleson in 1992 and was entirely funded through private and corporate donations.  The size and cost of the project, which was the largest undertaking on Lake Huron at the time, was doubted by many but the four men persisted and insisted that it could be done without government funding and wanted it to be a source of pride for the community celebrating its 135th anniversary.
A granite marker at the foot of the flag bears the name, "Friends of the Flag" and is an ongoing tribute to those who have and continue to donate to the upkeep of the flag and the surrounding grounds.  Many names have been engraved in memoriam and others are local organizations that contributed to the special Southampton icon.  The base, excavation and most of the engineering were all donated.  "It was incredible," says Ron Seaman.  "The entire community came together to get the project completed in time for Canada Day."

According to Seaman, the flag began as a 'peoples' project to be completed and maintained through private contributions and fundraising.  Today, the project continues to be maintained entirely through private donations, including the surrounding landscape that was completed by the Friends of the Flag.  There are approximately 20 'flag captains' who watch the marine weather forecast carefully on a weekly rotational basis and, if the winds reach 20 naughts, the weekly 'captain' in charge will lower the giant flag as quickly as possible.

"Like anything else," says Seaman, "the project requires funding to be maintained. Each flag must be replaced, if not annually at least every second year because of weather deterioration, and each flag costs $1,800. We are hoping that people who take pride in the iconic Southampton attraction will step forward, as those in the past have, to help the Friends of the Flag in keeping the tradition alive."

(With thanks to the Saugeen Times)

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