American Flag Drop

StradivariusBone

Custom Title
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Folding drops in and of itself is already a contentious issue, but I was mostly curious about the sentiment when that drop has a whole US Code written about it. Our school owns a 30x20~ American flag that they typically suspend as a backdrop at the roadhouse where they do their graduation (our space is too small). I ended up in custody of the drop in the early days of COVID because they wanted me to explore options of suspending it at the covid-friendly outdoor graduation. That didn't fly (har) because of the added cost of renting the right gear to do it safely.

Anyway, fast forward 2ish years later and graduation is back at the roadhouse and I raised the point that no one has seen the flag in some time, maybe we should hang it to stretch it out a bit and make sure it's still in good order. It was folded as American flags typically are in triangles, but as we went to hang it we had some reservations about it touching the deck. I'm an Eagle scout so that was drilled into me, but at the same time we cleaned the floor prior to hanging it, just like we would with any other backdrop.

It ended up being an interesting conversation about the flag code, conventions regarding the flag, past and current emotions/opinions about the flag and so on. I'm just curious of the hive mind and your thoughts. I know we have non-Americans here as well, and I understand American "flag culture" can be overzealous- I would be interested to know your thoughts too. Should it be treated with quiet reverence? Is it a drop just as any other?

Exhibit A:
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TheaterEd

Renaissance Man
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Every time I have needed a large American flag for a show (Twice), I had one specially sewn to have an incorrect number of stripes and thus not be an official flag and subject to as strict of a flag code. We were still respectful, but didn't dispose of it if touched the ground or anything. Kind of like how some of Disney's flags have 45 stars so they don't have to light them or take them down at night.
 

StradivariusBone

Custom Title
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I had no idea. That's amazingly genius. Unfortunately in our case, that is a bonafide US flag. I will definitely keep that little trick in my back pocket though.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
My experience with "flag code" is that it matters to a lot of military veterans and people with control issues (not always the same folks, BTW). "Dropping" like a Kabuki is fine so long as the result is a correctly displayed flag that doesn't touch the floor/ground. I've seen US flags on roll drops and don't recall any negative push back but I was not in the scenic/props depts.

Another thing about the Flag Code - it is one of those "laws" that has no enforcement or punishment.

Have questions about U.S. flag display or handling? Contact an American Legion post. They'll be delighted to help.
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Throw plastic on the floor and hang it like any other drop unless you have a budget that allows you to have enough folks to cradle it like a sharks tooth scrim while a bunch of other people tie it on the batten.
Given that most American flags are in tatters in the back of lifted pickup trucks The folks that might balk at it touching the stage <and it is a stage NOT the ground> don't have alot of room to bitch.
 

StradivariusBone

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I'm friends with the Chief of our AFJROTC here and I know he'd have kittens if we mistreated it. I was mixed on the floor thing, because I felt the risk of damage would increase with trying to keep it off the floor with not enough kids helping.

Folding it will be a thing. I was well-practiced in flag folding as a Scout, but this one is big and will be an all-hands-on-deck event.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
I'd basically treat it like any backdrop, federal code be damned. I mean treat with respect, don't step on it, etc.....
 

cbrandt

Well-Known Member
My hazy memory is that "proper" flag folding is more about ceremony and tradition, so long as the flag is treated respectfully and folded in a reasonable way. It is basically impossible on flags that size to fold them in triangles, and keep them off the "ground".

It is better to respectfully fold it, than disrespectfully fold it in triangles.

Hey, look at that, the actual flag code! No mention of proper folding whatsover.

It has been a long time since I've read this, we're really bad at following our own flag code...
 

JimmyM

Active Member
My experience with big flags comes from doing the Mackinac Honor Guard, a summer program where girl and boy scout troops spend a week on Mackinac Island and raise and lower the flags, and act as tour guides for the state park. One of the fun things in the Garrision flag, a 20'x36', 38 star flag(that puts in the 1880s or so), and it's only flown on perfect weather days. another fun fact about the island is it's home to one of three places in the US where the flag is flown at half-mast 365 days a year.

As far as flag code is concerned as long as you are being respectful do whatever you need to do, the flag code in my mind is more for ceremonial things, such as military procedures, large national events, things where having a "correct" way is helpful.

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Up to you. If you care about flag etiquette and have the time and man power to fold that way go for it.
But you do run a venue so I'd treat it like a drop. Do the ties along the top along the batten make it technically not a proper flag?
Additionally I don't believe large flags at ball games are folded the triangle way, so there's that.
And like others have said, is a stage technically a floor? what if the stage has another drop on it, or a show deck? Just don't drop or hang the flag in front of guests that may be military or scouts.
 

JohnD

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"What do you mean we're not supposed to wear the flag as underwear or swimsuits. I'm just honoring our country."

View attachment 22981
Well, if you really want Red, White and Blue undies, use the British flag, problem solved, at least on this side of the pond.
 

rsmentele

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Premium Member
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I find it interesting that here we are, debating the proper etiquette of using a flag on stage to ensure it's treated with care and respect when so many people have no real understanding on the US Flag Code. They pick and choose what portion of the code they think they know about such as letting it touch the ground. I would say that I see the flag improperly represented or respected more often than I see it care for under the code.

https://www.military.com/flag-day/us-flag-code.html

Is it illegal to not follow the code? Not as of 1990. I think if I ever wanted to do some dramatic symbolism that might cause the flag to be desecrated, I would put a note in the program relating to the action on stage with the flag being an expression of art intended to create an emotional response to the action on stage.... or some other justification. But that is because it is within out rights as citizens to do so as our 1st amendment right.

But because I do consider the flag a sacred item, I would have it disposed of properly once the show was closed.
 

SS Minnow

Active Member
Throw plastic on the floor and hang it like any other drop unless you have a budget that allows you to have enough folks to cradle it like a sharks tooth scrim while a bunch of other people tie it on the batten.
Given that most American flags are in tatters in the back of lifted pickup trucks The folks that might balk at it touching the stage <and it is a stage NOT the ground> don't have alot of room to bitch.
When they say ‘ground’, they are referring to the deck in general. You know, the hard thing you kneel on. It does not necessarily mean raw dirt. It is an etiquette and respect thing that it appears you do not understand. But just go ahead and toss it around like a shop rag. I have seen the reaction of decorated veterans who witnessed the mishandling of the flag by those who are oblivious to the code. These men and women were wounded in battle and watched their buddies die for our Country. How the Flag is treated in this type of situation depends on who is in charge and how dedicated they are in to paying proper respect to the symbol of our Country. As far as symbolic pseudo flags go, don’t you think they should also be treated with a little respect and symbolism as well, or is that not part of the ‘show’? I guess then it’s fine to through all that out the window since Disney is willing to present fake flags to portray their pseudo patriotism to save a few bucks.
 

Benjamin Fink

Active Member
You gotta do what you gotta do to get the flag hung and in the air, and if you have the requirement to hang the flag but not the necessary labor to hold it suspended at all times, a clean dropcloth could probably be an acceptable option.

It's been awhile since I was in scouts, but when you fold the flag into a triangle, does that leave the top ties exposed as you unfold the triangle? As a thought experiment, you could maybe get away with a crew of three if you have one stagehand tying the ties onto the batten/truss, one hand in front unfolding the triangle, and one behind to west coast the flag to the batten as you go. Then you could either fly the flag to height and untie the west coast ties from a lift, or just get a large enough crew for the short time it would take to drape the flag into their arms and fly it out to height.

I figure you do your best to follow the flag code, but as long as you follow the same procedures you would for a scrim or other delicate drop to keep it clean and undamaged, that's gotta count for at least partial credit. It's all a balancing test between the resources you have available and what issues would come up if you deviate from the code. Do you just have a few hands that need to get the flag up in a short amount of time? Is it likely that someone would show up, be offended, and cause problems you then have to deal with? Do you have access to a platoon of scouts who need to finish their patriotic theatre merit badge?

The flag is an important symbol, but at the end of the day, it's a symbol. Anybody who would be hurt or offended by you doing your best to hang the flag certainly has the right to do so, but I would have to wonder why they would choose to focus on that instead of the flag print bro tanks and boxer shorts on sale at Wally-World or the tattered flags whipping around behind coal-rolling pickups.
 

Benjamin Fink

Active Member
Because I was curious, I looked up what they do for the football field-sized flags. Seems like plastic sheeting is good enough for the NFL and the American Legion - and that's good enough for me.

Mr. Green says that the only complaint he hears is that the flags sometimes touch the ground. Sheer size makes it nearly impossible to avoid. Plastic is often placed on the ground when the flags are packed and unpacked. Superflag recommends having 265 volunteers to hold the football-field sized flag most to hold the edges, but about 100 of them to be stationed beneath the flag to help keep it aloft.

Mike Buss, an assistant director at the American Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis, and the organization’s flag guru, said that the belief that a flag that touched the ground was somehow soiled and must be destroyed “is an old wives’ tale.”

“All we ask is, no matter the size, that the flag is treated with dignity and respect,” Mr. Buss said.

 

JohnD

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Have questions about U.S. flag display or handling? Contact an American Legion post. They'll be delighted to help.
Also if you have an old, worn, tattered US flag to dispose of, contact them, IIRC many posts have an annual flag respect day and they will properly dispose of them.
 

cbrandt

Well-Known Member
Also if you have an old, worn, tattered US flag to dispose of, contact them, IIRC many posts have an annual flag respect day and they will properly dispose of them.
As will/do most Boy Scout troops.
 
Canadian here, but still respectful of flags. Please pardon me if my suggestion goes against the US Flag Code.
Could you set up some tables, or chairs to take the bulk of the flag as you tie it to the batten? Could a couple of people then guide it as the batten flies out?
On a related note, there was this corporate gig I did a few years ago. The stage party entered with the Canadian, American, and Provincial/Territorial flags. Although they entered in the correct order, instead of Canada stopping USR, and the rest of the flags falling in order, the flag bearer crossed USL, so all of the flags ended up in the reverse order, contradicting the Canadian Flag Code.
Even worse, as the gig was being struck, one of the organizers left ALL of the flags lying on the floor. As soon as I saw this, I went over and put them on a table.
ALSO, the local anthem singer forgot the words to our Provincial anthem!
 

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