World’s Largest Flag

Long Beach, California

Thomas “Ski” Demski is 71 years old. He recently came in last in a Long Beach City Council race, getting only 61 votes. He runs for mayor every time they have an election, and never wins. But the mayor of Long Beach was not in George W. Bush’s inaugural parade, and Ski Demski was.

That’s because Ski Demski owns the World’s Largest Flag, “Superflag,” as designated by the Guinness Book of World Records. It is an American Flag. It measures 505 feet by 225 feet and weighs 3,000 pounds. It takes 500 people to unfurl. Each star is 17 feet high.

Superflag wasn’t in the Bush inaugural. It was too big. Superflag, Jr. at 47×82 was, carried by 55 ROTC cadets. A 56th cadet pushed Demski alongside in a wheelchair.

Demski is a true patriot in the happiest crank sense: he has a tattoo of Old Glory on his chest, using an old operation scar as its flagpole. Nearby, he also has tattooed “In Case of Emergency” and the phone numbers of three of his doctors. (Not to drift too far afield, but at a recent checkup, one of the doctors mentioned that his number had changed, so Demski had a new one tattooed in and the old one redlined out.) Demski recently had to postpone a talk about patriotism to a grade school, when the principal made him go home and change his “Hooters” T-shirt.

Out in front of Demski’s Long Beach home stands a 132 foot flag pole, “The Pole.” Demski, also a Pole, looks something like Santa Claus. A neon sign over his garage says “The North Pole.” A 30×60 foot flag flaps atop the pole.

Hard to believe, given the outpouring of flag waving the past two weeks (post-Sept. 11, 2001), but back in 1980, neighbors took him to court to take down the flag, saying that it flapped too loudly. Fortunately, Demski won his case. And when the hostages were returned from Iran in 1981, he commissioned Superflag, Jr. Superflag was created in 1992, and Demski became head of The Superflag Company, which rents the flags out for special occasions.

Superflag has been unfurled at Superbowls, in front of the Washington Monument, even dangled from Hoover Dam for an awe-inspiring photo opportunity.

Why flags? Demski said “Because it represents our country and what it stands for. It means freedom to me and there’s no sweeter word.”

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~ by Digory Kirke on August 6, 2008.

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