Protesters forced from flagpole fanfare
A family of protesters was chased away from a ceremony Saturday in which a crowd was gathered to dedicate the large flag at the Wal-Mart and Home Depot parking lot that has stirred controversy in recent weeks. A police officer shoved and forced Avon resident Walter Dandy, along with his son and daughter, to leave the ceremony. While speakers were opening the ceremony, Dandy and his children approached the platform raising signs and wearing shirts that quoted federal law and read, “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever,” and “Honor the Flag – take it down.”Avon police officer Gordon Chicoine forced Dandy and his children, Ellicott, 13, and Robert, 8, to the sidewalk across the street from the Village at Avon parking lot. Chicoine said Dandy was welcome to protest across the street on Avon town property, but not in the parking lot, which is owned privately by the development company, Traer Creek LLC.Dandy said the giant flag is not patriotic, but a display of commercialism.”We’re obviously outraged,” Dandy said, “It’s clearly advertising – any thinking person would conclude that.”
Regarding his police escort from the parking lot, which involved shouts of “Go away!” from the crowd, Dandy said, “I can’t believe this. It’s supposed to be a public event. There was an invitation in the paper that said ‘everyone’s invited’.”Traer Creek LLC owner Magnus Lindholm said of the disturbance, “Everybody has the right to protest, but the police told me they would keep it clean of protesters because it’s private property.”Of the protesters, 17-year-old Battle Mountain High School student Meagan Reigel, who said she came to support the soldiers in Iraq, said, “They don’t even have a valid argument, it’s just something to draw attention to themselves.”After Dandy was removed, the crowd, in which many people were dressed in stars and stripes, seemed to enjoy festivities that included a children’s choir, speeches from veterans and town representatives, a raffle and barbecue.They joined in singing the Star Spangled Banner and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, then speakers discussed the American flag’s tradition and the importance of honoring those who died to preserve its significance.Avon Mayor Buz Reynolds, who is running for county commissioner against incumbent Arn Menconi and former county sheriff A.J. Johnson, gave an emotional speech.
“Look at the flag and remember those men and women who died for our freedom to make our own choices,” he said. “Today is about respect, respect for the flag and for the Village at Avon development. Call it Old Glory, call it whatever you want, but respect it – honor it.”After several speeches the more than 30 veterans attending the event were invited to help raise the 20-foot by 38-foot flag on the blue flagpole that retired Navy officer and NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter explained was modeled after a battleship mast. As the wind caught the rising flag, onlookers cheered and drivers honked. “I’m here to honor our country and flag,” said Edwards resident Jannette Blaire, 55. “It seemed like a fine celebration for Independence Day – and my husband is a veteran, he just helped raise the flag. It touches my heart.”Several people lined up to thank Lindholm, whose company built the two big box stores, erected the flagpole and will further develop the Avon complex with stores, office space and homes.
“It was a big success – I’m happy so many people came out to honor the flag,” said Lindholm. Also in attendance was Higinio Romero, the founder of the Minturn Veterans of Foreign Wars post and it oldest member. The 82 year old served in Italy during World War II.”I’m very proud,” he said while eating a hamburger. “There were some complaints about the size, but I think that is not important.”Neva Nottingham, a descendant of one of Eagle County’s founding homestead families, said she once lived on the land that now houses the Village at Avon. Nottingham says she approves of the new flagpole. “If I still lived here I would love it,” she said. “I’m very proud Mr. Lindholm has put it on the old Nottingham ranch. Our family is honored.”