Flying the Stars and Stripes on Flag Day – Should You Fly it Other Days Too?

Rochester, Minnesota is my home town. While I can’t speak for all Minnesotans, I can say many of them fly the American flag. You see it on farm houses, grain elevators, construction sites, apartment buildings, public buildings, and private homes. Some even put flags on cars and motorcycles.

Yesterday my husband and I drove to Winona, an historic town on the Mississippi River. Instead of taking the highway, we drove back roads to see the green countryside and hardwood forests. Flags lined the main streets of small, rural towns. Flags were flying in front of churches and schools. One patriotic farmer had a flag on his propane tank.

Seeing Old Glory wave in the breeze was heartwarming. Minnesotans are independent people and, while some think flying the flag is sentimental nonsense, some state residents fly it year-round — sun and snow, dry weather and wet, day and night. Years ago, flags had to be taken down when it got dark. This has changed. Now flags can be flown at night, and they are supposed to be illuminated.

You may have been thinking of getting a flag. Weather is the first thing to consider. Do you live in a windy place? High winds can literally rip a flag to pieces. Take the flag down immediately if the wind speed reaches 20 or more miles an hour. “When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms,” notes the USA Flag Website.

Fabric is the next thing to consider. The Flag Stuff Website compares nylon, polyester, and bulldog cotton, “the trade name for a heavy-weight outdoor cotton.” According to the Website, the open weave of this material allows air to pass through. The Flag-Works Website recommends 100% spun polyester for its strength and durability and says it can withstand high winds.

Moisture damages fabric and can create mold, so you should never fold a wet flag or put it away wet. Check the flag regularly for signs of wear. Look for fraying corners, loose threads, and raveling hems. You don’t have to replace a tattered flag; the worn part can be cut off and the flag can be re-hemmed.

Keeping a flag clean helps it to last longer. The USA Flag Website says pollution damages flags. So when the white stripes start to look gray it is time to wash the flag. Use a mild detergent, rinse it well, and air dry on a clothesline. Never lay a flag on the ground to dry.

Keep an eye on your flag. Several times now, pranksters have stolen the giant flag in front of Perkin’s Restaurant in Rochester, Minnesota. Why they wanted it is still a mystery. You may wish to take an expensive flag in at night. A new or worn flag should never be used for decorative purposes — clothing, quilts, pillows, handbags, costumes, or a tablecloth.

The flags we saw on the way to Winona were in honor of Flag Day. Long after the day has passed, I am sure many flags will still be flyng. Midwesterners, in general, honor the flag. September 11th brought Americans together. You can keep this spirit alive by flying the stars and stripes at your place.

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson