'Memorial Salute of Flags' will be back in downtown Cedar Rapids ... sometime in the future

Flags absent July 4 because of weather, needed fixes and other factors

An American flag flies from the ladder of a Cedar Rapids Fire Department truck on First Avenue West in Cedar Rapids on T
An American flag flies from the ladder of a Cedar Rapids Fire Department truck on First Avenue West in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The American flags that commonly wave along downtown bridges during patriotic holidays are noticeable absent this year, drawing criticism from some veterans, but they are expected to be back in the future, according to the city.

A corridor of flags regularly welcomes visitors to the downtown Cedar Rapids area during holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July as they cross the bridges over the Cedar River. This year, those flags are not on display.

“The intention is to display the flags in the future when conditions permit,” said Maria Johnson, a city spokeswoman.

The flags are part of the Memorial Salute of Flags tradition dating to 1983, in which “burial flags” presented to the families of veterans who have died are flown on select days throughout the year on the First, Second and Third Avenue bridges in downtown Cedar Rapids. The flags primarily are flown before and after Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

The veteran’s name is identified on each flag and the Memorial Salute of Flags committee safeguards the flags throughout the year, according to a description of the program on the group’s Facebook page and the city website.

On Thursday, the city stationed a firetruck hanging a large flag at First Avenue and First Street SW.

“We did that out of respect for our veterans and those concerned about the flags not being there,” City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said.


The Salute of Flags organization manages the displays, with assistance from the city putting them up and taking them down.

Several issues presented themselves this year.

A storm on Memorial Day broke the brackets on several light poles where the flags are held, and the brackets have not yet been fixed. The city is waiting for replacement parts, Johnson said.

The forecast called for the possibility of bad weather, prompting concern of damage to the flags, and road construction on the Third Avenue Bridge prohibited placing flags on the south side of the street, Johnson said. Organizers were going to display them on the north side of the bridge but opted not to because of the other factors.

Meanwhile, the proximity of the First Avenue Bridge to the fireworks display prompted the flags to be left off that bridge, Johnson said.

“Because of these reasons (with weather being the No. 1 consideration), a mutual decision was made to not display the flags on Second Avenue and north Third Avenue for the Independence Day holiday,” she said.

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