It was the curious case of missing flags Friday for Payson’s Patriotic Events Committee.
U. S. Marine Corps Retired Colonel Bill Sahno said he remembers individually and painstakingly hanging more than 40 flags along Main Street Friday morning — as a tribute to the weekend’s Civil War reenactment battle at Green Valley Park. But by Friday afternoon, they had mysteriously vanished. Had the gale force winds lifted them away, or had someone stolen them?
Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Sahno called around town and discovered Public Works Director LaRon Garrett had collected all 41 flags after many were strewn across Main Street, tossed into trees or hung limply from their steel poles by a strong wind storm that blew into Payson.
“It was on Friday that we experienced those ferocious winds which devastated the flags and damaged some of the light poles,” Sahno said.
“Garrett retrieved the flags to both save the flags in distress and to reduce further damage to the light poles.”
Sahno collected the mangled flags from Garrett and said he will try to repair them, but he does not plan to hang them up until the light poles are repaired.
Many of the light poles became loose or were weakened at the base because of the wind and torque from the flags.
“Those vintage light poles were never designed to accommodate a variety of embellishments such as flags, signs or even the Christmas decorations,” Sahno said. “Friday’s winds took it over the top and highlighted the original intent for which the light poles were installed — to provide illumination at night for the pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Main Street.”
Besides several dozen mangled flags and weakened light poles, many of the flag brackets were bent or fell off.
Because of the damages, the committee has decided to suspend hanging flags until the light poles are repaired or replaced.
“I wish for everyone to know that our Payson Patriotic Events Committee is working for our citizens and working with Town government to see that all work together for the benefit of all,” Sahno said.
“Our citizens have come to appreciate those American Flags flying proudly on Main Street on the occasions that we display them, and they will be sorely missed. However, we believe it prudent to allow the Town of Payson to review the situation and decide which way best to proceed.”
Sahno suggested that the vintage light poles might need to be replaced with modern fixtures that would allow for flags and banners display.
The Patriotic Events Committee became involved with posting the flags a few years ago after Sahno and then chamber manager Pat Johnson purchased 41 flags.
“Since that time, we have posted the flags on significant occasions of patriotic interest in support of events sponsored by the Town of Payson,” he said.
The committee also designs and presents patriotic tributes on holidays including Memorial Day, Independence Day, Patriot Day and Veterans Day.
The Patriotic Events Committee was created in 1990 with members Joe and Lee Pretsch and George Rigby and known as the flag committee.
The group helped the town with all flag presentations at patriotic and special events.
By 1992, with the help of the committee, Payson was designated by the Governor of Arizona as the flag capital of Arizona.
Sahno became chairperson in 2003 after Lee Pretsch left the group