Macy's Hoists Largest American Flag in a Department Store at State Street
By Kelly Bauer on May 22, 2014 11:44am
THE LOOP — A 50-by-100-foot hanging flag — the world's largest American flag to be displayed inside a department store — will hang in Macy's courtyard to honor veterans from Thursday to July 7.
The flag, which was hoisted before the store, 111 N. State St., opened Thursday, is made of a parachute-like material and weighs less than 75 pounds. The store, which used to be a Marshall Field's, has displayed the flag every year since 2003, and off-and-on since 1916.
"It's a pretty thing to hang," said Mark Witteveen, the project manager at Chicago Flyhouse, which rigs and raises the flag. "Every year I'm like, 'Whoa.'"
Macy's spokeswoman Lauren Rapisand said she hears gasps from customers who see the flag, which hangs in the store's courtyard between the seventh and second floors.
"You walk in and I think you see it and it inspires you and it makes you proud," Rapisand said. "We hope that our guests feel the same."
The flag will also act as the meeting spot for singers who wish to honor the "Star-Spangled Banner's" 200th anniversary. At 3 p.m. June 14, anyone is welcome to come to the store to sing the national anthem underneath the flag. The event is a result of a pairing between Macy's and the Smithsonian, which houses the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's song.
The flag raised Thursday is actually the third to hang in the store. The first was unveiled in 1916 in the June 3 Preparedness Parade. The flag was displayed between Memorial Day and Independence Day every year until 1941, when it was retired and a new one was hung in its place. Both flags were wool and weighed about 900 pounds, and 80 people were needed to carry the flag in the Preparedness Parade.
"When the second flag wore out, they just didn't get a new one," said Andrea Schwartz, Macy's vice president of media relations and cause marketing.
The tradition was resurrected in 2003, when Marshall Field's executives came across an old photo of the flag hanging in the store.
"We were like, 'This is a wonderful tradition. Let's bring it back,'" Schwartz said.
The latest flag hangs on an S-shaped curve and has small weights sewed into its hem so it doesn't sway in the wind. Schwartz said the size of the flag makes it necessary for Macy's to hire more staff during the time it is displayed, as employees can't see across the courtyard to help customers. The flag is is worth the cost to Schwartz.
"It is just really quite special, and [it's] only in Chicago," Schwartz said. "Everybody looks forward to it."
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