Flags coming down from Depot Park

Cullman Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Zac Wood and Kiwanis President Andy Palys discuss the flag display at Depot Park.

The flags of the 50 states that have flown over Depot Park since 2011 will be coming down soon, but will eventually fly again at a new location.

The flags were the brainchild of Martha Burchell, who had seen a similar display of flags at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga. She brought the idea back to the Cullman Kiwanis Club, which raised about $30,000 for the poles and flags, some of which were donated by their states. The Cullman display was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2011, becoming only the second place in the state to fly all 50 state flags.

Since then, weather and time have taken their toll on the flags and the poles.

"We've known this is coming for a while," said Kiwanis President Andy Palys. "The city contacted us about five or six years ago, so it's been in the works. This is not the end, this is the beginning of chapter two."

While a location for a new display has not yet been determined, Cullman Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Zac Wood said one possibility is at the entrance to Heritage Park. "I think that would be a great place to do it," he said. "You get a lot of folks from a lot of surrounding counties and states that come there for ball games."

"We're very, very grateful for what the department of parks and rec and the city is doing for us," said Palys. "Both Mayor Townsend and now Mayor Jacobs have been very instrumental in keeping this going. But it's time for it to take its next course."

In the nine years the flags have flown, visitors from around the country have come to find the flag from their home state. "I have personally seen cars with tags from Alaska and Hawaii over here," said Palys.

"We think it's a great thing for Cullman. You can go and enjoy seeing a snapshot of the country right there. It's a history lesson as it stands," he added.

When one of the pedestals holding a flag pole recently fell over, the city discovered the wear and tear rain and wind has taken on the pedestals and poles. Palys said the Kiwanis Club had been regularly replacing the state flags, which were subjected to a lot of wind and wear. "A couple years ago, I came over here and South Carolina had just flown to the ground," he said. "So I picked up South Carolina. The poles were never intended to last this long."

The United States flag will continue to fly at Depot Park and a plaque will be placed in front of it commemorating the Kiwanis Club's 50-state flag display and those who donated to it. And the Kiwanis Club fully intends to see the 50 flags flying once again.

"We're not going to make any hurried decisions on where to put it right now," said Palys. "We're going to do this right, we're going to raise money for new flags. Although we're sad to see it go, we're excited to see what's coming next."

Amy Henderson can be reached at 256-734-2131 Ext. 216.

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