NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Alan Horbal has adopted the herculean effort over the last 22 years of installing American flags on utility poles throughout the city every summer.
"I started on Park Avenue with four flags, and then 12, and then 60, and we have been expanding ever since," Horbal said. "... My ultimate goal is to do the whole town. I am not a vet, but I honor them.
"I can tell you it is a special feeling looking out your window in the morning and seeing a flag flying."
Horbal just got up one morning and decided this was something he wanted to do. He went to the hardware store and purchased four kits.
As he purchased more flags, at that time with his own money, he installed them on Kemp, Lake Street, Bradley Street, and George Fairs Way.
"We just kept plugging away he said," he said.
As residents and different organizations caught wind of Horbal's project more donations were made, allowing him to expand his vision quicker.
He eventually formally created Kempville Flags Inc.
Horbal has started a larger campaign tapping banks and other organizations for support. He said oftentimes neighborhoods would pool donations to get some flags on their own streets.
"We just hope to be able to continue what we are doing and continue getting support, which we are getting," Horbal said. "People are happy about it, and we get a lot of feedback."
Flags throughout the city is a lofty goal that Horbal is sure he can put a serious dent in.
"I am pretty sure before my time expires that I can get everything east of the [Hoosic] River done, with a couple exceptions," Horbal said. "... I won't complete it in my life time, but the more donations I get the more I can put up."
Horbal said about every $100 will secure 20 flags. He has partnered with Ocean State Job Lot, which supplies him flags at a discounted rate.
But it is more than just purchasing flags. A bracket and plastic tube is needed to attach the flag. With the cost increase, it has become more difficult to get the flags out of his garage and installed.
But again, the community has stepped up.
RI Baker has supplied materials and McCann Technichal School students manufacture the stainless steel brackets.
"Very seldom do the kids get a chance to work with stainless steel, and it is a whole different animal," he said. "So when they leave McCann, they can say they have worked with stainless steel, which looks good on a resume when they graduate."
The flags go up on Patriots Day and come down on Columbus Day. During the winter, Horbal takes inventory and prepares flags for the coming Patriots day.
"I move very slowly. I get the new flags and get them ready to go and bundle up the old ones," he said. "In three hours I can do 24 flags."
Horbal said although more flags are always needed, there isn't necessarily a supply issue holding him up.
"But the problem is all about getting people. Like right now I have 400 flags in my garage," he said. "We get windstorms that damage the flags, and this happens every year. But I don't have anyone who can put up the flags. I am 77 and most of my friends are close to that. We aren't going to climb ladders."
He said local Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups have helped in the past but more volunteers are always needed.
He did note that he does not carry any sort of liability insurance so volunteers help at their own risk.
In the immediate future, Beaver Street and Mohawk Forest Boulevard are on the agenda. After that he hopes to tackle Bradford Street, Bradley Extension, Daniels Road, the Walker Street area, and the West Shaft Road area.
There are flags on Beaver Street near the city line, and down Union Street through the mills and up Miner Street, and on the top of East Main Street and up East Main Extension.
Horbal realizes his work will never be completed and even if he is able to install flags throughout the city, there will always be a need for replacements. He said it is also important to properly retire spent flags, which is time consuming.
But it all is worth it, he said, and he hopes all residents feel a little more pride when they look out at their street.
"I think when the flags are out people feel a little more pride in their country, at least I do," he said. "I enjoy it."
Any donations can be made to Kempville Flags Inc., 458 East Main St., North Adams, MA 01247.
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