According to the United States Code, generally speaking, the U.S. flag should be flown daily by public institutions and near every schoolhouse and polling place. Frying Pan Farm Park meets all three criteria as a location for the U.S. flag, since the park is a county facility and a voting location, and it has a preschool on its 135-acre property.
Recently, a new flagpole was installed at this Fairfax County Park Authority site. It took a lot of time and effort, and here’s why.
First, a flashback. This photo was taken back when there was a high school on what is now Frying Pan Farm Park property. The school with the flag flying in front of it was torn down in 1964, but the four-room schoolhouse you see to the left is still standing today. It’s now the home of the Katydid Farm Preschool.
Flash forward a few years. Now you see the U.S. flag flying at the entrance to what was then called the Frying Pan Park and Youth Center. (This photo was taken after Frying Pan became a Fairfax County Park Authority site in 1961.)
Moving forward almost 30 years, you have this recollection from former Frying Pan Farm Park Manager Yvonne Johnson:
“When I first started working at the park in 1989, there was a flagpole somewhere in front of the Indoor Arena. It may have been taken down when Barns 1 and 2 were built. I believe it was very old and not sure it was working anymore.”
When that flagpole was taken down, the lack of a U.S. flag concerned Jack Pitzer, the president of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park.
“I have been volunteering at the park for over 40 years,” Pitzer says. “I don’t recall ever seeing a flagpole at the park — at least not in use with a flag. I felt there should be one at the park — especially in the spirit of why Joe Beard inaugurated Frying Pan Farm Park to support and help 4-H and FFA youth grow and learn.”
Because he felt so strongly about the need for a U.S. flag at Frying Pan, Pitzer made a restricted donation to the Fairfax County Park Foundation for the purchase of a flagpole.
Even though this provided funding for the project, there were many more hurdles to overcome in bringing a flag back to Frying Pan.
“It took me years to figure out where to buy one, how big it should be, and come up with a preliminary location,” Johnson explains. “I had some great help from Kelly Davis and one other staffer from Planning and Development. They came over with some very long poles of various sizes and stood in front of the Indoor Arena. We took turns holding the poles to see how the different sizes looked against the building. That is how we decided on what size to buy.
“I finally got the purchase organized during COVID, and since the flagpole company had minimal staff during the pandemic, it took several rounds of back and forth before the purchase was finalized right before I retired. It was actually delivered after I retired.” Johnson retired in March 2021, but the flagpole was still a ways from being installed. Finding the right location was key.
Park staff decided not to put the flag where it had been in years past, but rather by Middleton Barn near the fields used for dog training classes. Maintenance Coordinator Eric Malmgren ultimately picked the spot saying, “It looks like the landscape bed was made for a flagpole.”
He was right. Look at this amazing photo taken by Frying Pan Operations Manager Paul Nicholson.
As with all projects that involve digging, this one required a call to 811, the Federal Communications Commission’s “call before you dig” number. A professional utility technician had to investigate the proposed site to make sure it wouldn’t disturb any underground utilities.
The Park Authority’s Archeology and Collections branch was similarly involved to make sure that the flagpole location would not disturb any cultural or historical artifacts.
Once the site was cleared for digging, there was the problem of building the flagpole’s cement platform.
“Who knew it was so hard to buy just one cubic yard of concrete?” Johnson jokes.
Not to mention, actually mixing the concrete. Frying Pan doesn’t own a cement mixer, and renting one was too expensive. Staff faced the fact that they might have to endure the backbreaking work of manually mixing the cement.
“It would have been a ton of work to mix it by hand,” Johnson says. Fortunately, staff from the Park Operations Division saved the day by stepping in with their small cement mixer.
Finally, county staff and members of the friends board got to see their years of planning and preparation pay off. A ceremony led by Pitzer and his wife was held to raise the flag.
Pitzer says, “I love the new location and look forward to ceremonies there during the park year — July 4th, Memorial Day, September 11th, etc.”
Speaking of September 11, Nicholson took this powerful photo on September 11, 2021. The faint beam of light in the distance was from the 9-11 memorial at the Pentagon, almost 25 miles away.
Tommy Pippin, a Frying Pan farmhand who served in the U.S. Coast Guard, has instructed staff on the proper protocols for the display and handling of the U.S. flag. It is flown daily at Frying Pan Farm Park, and members of the public are invited to visit any day of the week or on weekends. There is no fee to visit, and the park grounds are open until dusk.
Author Lois Kirkpatrick is the Marketing Coordinator at Frying Pan Farm Park.