NORMAL — Flying an American flag is a big responsibility — especially with a flag as big as Young America Realty's.
"We have 'America' in our business name, and it seemed like a fun and patriotic thing to do," said General Manager Andy Netzer of the 20-by-38-foot flag waving over traffic next to the company's office at 311 S. Main St., Normal. "People really seem to love it, but it can be a handful."
Since installing a 70-foot-tall flagpole that's visible as far south as Illinois Wesleyan University and as far north as Fairview Park, Young America has learned how much work is necessary to buy, fly and maintain a 760-square-foot flag, said Netzer.
"The flags themselves last only a couple months before they start to tear. We take it to a sewing shop and ask them to mend it," he said. "We'll probably have to buy two new ones every year from attrition. Bigger means more wind strain, and it just wears it out. They cost $700 or $800 each."
Employees also have to operate a crank to raise and lower the flag, including on days when it flies at half-staff — "any bigger and it might interfere with traffic at half-staff," said Netzer — though that's necessary less often because it's lit and stays up at night. He said the 300-watt LED light keeping the flag visible "can light up the moon."
At least one group appreciates the investment: the American Legion, whose two Bloomington-Normal posts have offered to perform a ceremony for the flag that's still to be scheduled.
"We're just trying to show appreciation for what they're doing," said Butch Ekstam, executive officer of Normal's American Legion Carl S. Martin Post 635, which partners with Bloomington's Louis E. Davis Post 56. "We love how much they respect the flag."
Ekstam said the posts hope to honor not only Young America's flag but also a similarly sized flag at Freedom Oil at 1801 Towanda Ave., Bloomington — and present an even bigger flag to the Normal Fire Department for their new headquarters station at 606 S. Main St., two blocks south of Young America's office.
Netzer noted the company also is embracing the flag motif with a new logo to be rolled out this summer.
He said he has only one regret about the flag after nine months.
"If I were doing it over I'd probably go bigger," Netzer said with a laugh. "Maybe we could get another 20 or 30 feet out of it."