Holly Richardson: ‘Follow the Flag’ brings tender feelings of love for country

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sundance Mountain Resort partnered with Follow the Flag to ski a giant American Flag down Bearclaw run. The flag is 78' x 150' and weighs more than 400 pounds, the largest free-flying American flag in the world. It took coordination of 50 of Sundance's best skiers to pull it off. They did a dry run unfurling the massive flag at the top of the mountain before putting on the skis. This event is to express patriotism and support of Team USA and athletes representing the country in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Kyle Fox wanted to find a way to give back to his community. One night in 2015, he said to his wife, Carrie, that he had an idea. He wanted to hang a large flag across Grove Creek Canyon near his home in Pleasant Grove, large enough to be visible from I-15.

He did and the community responded with an outpouring of support. One Gold Star mom, Teresa Hunt, saw the flag from the freeway and had to find out who was responsible. The flag held extra-special meaning for her, as those Stars and Stripes draped her son’s coffin after he was killed in action in Iraq. She found Kyle Fox and wanted to be involved.

Seeing the response and loving the patriotism the flag in the canyon engendered, a new project was born: Follow the Flag.

Every Independence Day since 2015, a flag has flown in Grove Creek Canyon. That first flag, now called “Baby Betsy,” was 30 feet x 60 feet — but that wasn’t big enough for Kyle and his friend Ron Nix. They wanted to make and fly the largest U.S. flag in the country, so they and many volunteers got to work. Gail Halvosen, also known as the “Candy Bomber,” was one of those volunteers. He sat at a sewing machine and sewed on the first 55-inch star.

Big Betsy is the result. She is 150 feet wide and 78 feet tall, or 11,800 square feet. (A flag that size can cover a quarter-acre.) Each stripe is six feet wide. Each 55-inch star is seven feet away from its neighbor. Big Betsy weighs more than 400 pounds and last year it took 100 people to help carry her up the mountain.

That gigantic flag is a show stopper. And a traffic stopper. For many, she represents the best of American ideals and values, including the core American value of freedom.

Oh! Thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!

Last November, Follow the Flag flew a twin flag to Big Betsy” — The Major” — in Ogden Canyon to honor Maj. Brent Taylor after he was killed in Afghanistan. Now, Follow the Flag, North Ogden, has an active group of supporters that is involved in community events. Their organization will be in the Cherry Days parade on July 4 and need about 125 volunteers. If you want to participate, text FLAG to 801-285-0221.

There will be a Follow the Flag walk on Sunday at 7 p.m. Community members are asked to meet at the Veterans Memorial area of the Pleasant Grove Cemetery and will walk with the giant flags to the Grove Creek Trailhead, a distance of about a mile.

Finally, Big Betsy will once again fly in Grove Creek Canyon. Jennie Taylor, Major Brent Taylor’s widow, will be the keynote speaker at a sunrise ceremony at Grove Creek Trail at 7 a.m. on July 4. Jennie has been sharing a powerful message in venues across the country. She is amazingly resilient and her message of faith and freedom is the perfect way to mark Independence Day.

There has been so much heartache in the news lately and sometimes it can feel quite hopeless. Mr. Rogers famously said "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Kyle Fox is one of those helpers. When I called him for this article, he told me “Everybody needs to get out there and do something, big or small. Service is the secret.” Amen.

| Courtesy Holly Richardson, op-ed mug.

Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, will be there bright and early on July 4 to watch Big Betsy once again flying free.