Grand old flags flying high in Bay City

One man's visit to his brother inspired a patriotic beautification project in Downtown Bay City and the Columbus Avenue Business District.

The inspiration for the project came in 2009 when Avram Golden, owner of Golden Gallery and Custom Framing at 113 3rd St., was visiting his brother, Ari Golden, in Laingsburg before Ari left for active duty in Iraq. While riding his motorcycle through the small community located near Lansing, Avram Golden was struck by the picturesque sight of American flags flying along the streets.

At the time of his trip, Memorial Day was just around the corner and the Tall Ship Celebration was being planned. Avram Golden was inspired to recreate the picturesque scene back in Bay City. Today, the project has a name (Raise a Flag in Downtown Bay City) and nearly 300 flags fly from lampposts in Downtown Bay City and the Columbus Avenue Business District.

Nearly 300 flags fly in downtown Bay City and the Columbus Avenue Business District.Raise A Flag didn't happen overnight

Avram Golden’s first step was to contact the Bay City Downtown Management Board, who supported the idea. “But then they realized they’d never attached anything to the lampposts in Bay City, so they had to write the rules for that process,” said Golden. In 2010, Golden’s flag project initially raised enough money for 60 to 80 flag brackets and sets for the lampposts on Water Street and Saginaw Street.

“At the time, Washington Avenue had square lamp posts which were just too weak to hold the bracket and flag. This year they replaced them with historic lamp posts, so we were able to put them on Center Avenue and Washington Avenue,” said Golden. “We added 200 flag sets this year including 86 down Columbus Avenue with the approval with the Columbus Avenue Business District. The community really came together to support it,” said Golden.

Raise A Flag didn't happen without a lot of help

“Avram was looking for help on the flag project, and we were and are excited to be able to help out with it,” said Ed Neitzel, a lifelong resident of Bay City and an active participant in Hyland’s Hopeless, a local rucking group with a purpose. Rucking is walking/running with a weighted rucksack (aka backpack).

Raise a Flag relies on a team of volunteers to put the flags up every spring and take them down for the winter.Golden said the community owes a debt to Hyland's Hopeless. “These guys are awesome. They are a cross-section of the community that workout almost every day together. They do fundraisers for rescue missions, for Raise-a-Flag, and plenty others,” said Golden.

For the last two years, Hyland’s Hopeless has helped in maintaining Raise a Flag as well as helping it grow. “Maintaining now close to 300 flags throughout Bay City is overwhelming for one person. Hyland’s Hopeless have become integral in this project,” said Golden.

“It feels really good to be involved,” said Neitzel. “ I’m proud when I see them out the window now and I know that my troop did that.”

Golden continued, “When starting a project of this size I didn’t know the proper procedure on how to handle or dispose of flags in these quantities, but The American Legion has helped us with those details. Hylands Hopeless helps with leading proper handling of the flags when putting up and taking down, which gives direction to the people helping that aren't as familiar."

The American Legion has been providing American-made American flags to communities and individuals for nearly a century.

“Avram calls me because we do a flag program here at the American Legion,” said Mike Pergande current adjutant and former commander of The American Legion Post 18, 700 Adams St.

This year, 200 new flag sets were installed in honor of Ari Golden who would have been 50 this year. In addition to being able to purchase flags at the American Legion, American flags may also be dropped off outside of Post 18 for proper disposal. “We have a mailbox where people can bring their unserviceable flags. We burn them in a flag disposal ceremony, which is the correct way to dispose of a flag,” said Pergande.

Even though the flags are removed and stored through the winter, each flag only lasts about two years, so project funding remains ongoing for Raise a Flag. Golden purchases around 50 flags per year in order to replace tattered and torn flags. The American Legion donates 10 flags per year.

This year, Raise a Flag raised $12,000 to expand. Go-To Transport, 1320 Washington Ave., and the Gougeon Employees Foundation were major sponsors. The Bay City Electric department donates the cost of the attachment on each lamppost. Community members also are invited to donate flags in honor of veterans or active military members.

This year, 200 new flag sets were installed in honor of Ari Golden who would have been 50 this year. Ari Golden passed away in 2015 at the age of 46.

To sponsor a flag or get involved, please visit the Raise A Flag Bay City website or the Raise A Flag Facebook page. You also can contact Golden at Golden Gallery & Custom Framing or Deire McCliggott Piotrowski of Hyland's Hopeless.
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