Ken's Story, as dictated to his wife Cindy
After the events of September 11th, I wanted to put a flag up on the hill across from the farm. I couldn't find one to buy so I thought I would build one, but to build it on the scale that I was thinking would be a major undertaking and I wasn't sure that I could actually accomplish this task.
I happened to see Tony one day and told him I was thinking of building a flag and I asked him how neon might work for nighttime lighting. He became very enthusiastic about the project and the ball started rolling.
I was originally thinking a 20 by 40 foot flag, more or less but didn't know for sure. I borrowed a small flag and scaled it up to 16 by 28. I talked to Tony about this size and he thought that it would be more than adequate for the neon lights. I would like to have made it longer but then I would have had to go higher and since I don't like to be even two feet off the ground 16 feet was high enough. Actually on one corner it is 22 feet from the ground.
Once we had the size figured out it was time to set the poles. On October 2nd I took the backhoe up on the hill and dug the holes we would need. The next day my friend Griff and I went up and after a lot of calculation we set the six poles, three tall ones in the front and three shorter poles in the back. Setting the poles was the most dangerous part, and the part I most dreaded. Being on the steep side hill with the bucket tractor trying to make some very long poles stand upright was nerve-racking.
Once the poles were in I breathed a sigh of relief. I spent the next week gathering the rest of the framing materials. Leader Lumber was very good about giving a substantial discount on supplies.
On October 8th Gary Pelletier came up and helped Pops Tim, Griff and I get started on the framing. Over the next two days we got the structure all framed and Tim and I put on the roof. I hadn't originally planned to put on a roof but with all of the electrical components needed for the neon it seemed appropriate to have a roof for protection.
One of my major concerns at this point was what to use for paint. I went to Sherwin Williams where Nate got me all fixed up with the right colors and gave me a tremendous deal on premium paints. It was important to me to have the flag look like a flag in the day as well as at night.
I spent the next several days priming the plywood.
I cut the stars out in the workshop. They measure 103/8" from point to point. The star block is four pieces of plywood. It took a lot of figuring to get the stars large enough and still leave room between them to run the studs behind the plywood without them being seen.
The next question was how do you make the flag look right during the day with black holes for stars? Tony figured using translucent white plastic backlit with fluorescent lights would give a nice effect. He thought that making 50 neon stars would be a little too much.
Once all the painting was done Wayne and Griff helped me put up staging on the front of the structure. As the staging was going up we were also installing the tongue and groove plywood that forms the flag.
Now keep in mind that I have cows in the pasture while all of this is going on and one night they decided to check out this portion of pasture. They climbed up on the platform to dance a jig, play in the staging and leave their pies all over! It was at this point that I realized that I would have to build some sort of fence around the flag before the cows go out next spring. By this time Tony had gone to NY and gotten all the stuff he needed so he and Scott spent the next couple of days installing all of that.
In the meantime our neighbor, Eric, had been spending numerous hours getting all the wiring in place. We are grateful to him for donating his time to the project.
WMECO very generously donated the cable for the underground electric line. It would have been easier to run an overhead line but I really didnŐt want to see poles and line on the hill so we had to bury 650' of cable. This was made possible through the generosity of Ed Martin of E.W. Martin Electric who came with his trench digger and dug the trench required by the electric company. After that was done WMECO came and laid the line, I buried it, Eric finished up the connections and we were good to go.
On November 18th we gave it a test run. Everything worked and looked good so we arranged to have the official lighting ceremony on November 25, 2001.
Since the beginning of the project I have thought about our veterans, the men and women who have worked and fought to make our country the way it is, a place where I can erect a flag in neon! I am so thankful for them.
I also think that if I had put as much energy into building the sugarhouse that I need I could have had a real nice one, but at this time the flag is much more important to me. I hope that when people see this flag they will feel the way I have since the beginning, proud to be an American.