On Thursday morning, the giant flag named Big Betsy was unfurled in the canyon above Pleasant Grove — as it has been every year since 2015.
On Thursday afternoon, the flag — which is more than a quarter-acre in size — was damaged as a windy rainstorm blew through the area.
Follow the Flag organizers said that the microburst storm damaged the flag beyond repair. They said that after consideration, they decided it would be the last flight for Big Betsy.
“We have flown this flag many times and it has many scars on it, and that was a weakness,” Follow the Flag organizer Kyle Fox said in a Facebook video Thursday night. “We lost a big spot at the bottom, completely ripped out, and it completely ripped out across the header, so we’ve kind of determined that this will the last time that we fly this one. Maybe she will become a display flag, so she’s not done altogether.”
Even though the flag came down several days early on Friday morning, the canyon won’t be without a flag. The Ogden chapter of Follow the Flag offered up its flag named “The Major” to fly in the canyon in Big Betsy’s place.
The Major — measuring 150 feet by 78 feet — was made in honor of Major Brent Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden who died in Afghanistan in November 2018, leaving behind his wife and seven children.
Brent Taylor’s 40th birthday would be Saturday, and The Major flag will be flying on that day.
At Thursday’s By Dawn’s Early Light ceremony, Follow the Flag founder Kyle Fox related the story of hearing about Brent Taylor’s death.
“When I heard on the news that American hero Major Mayor Brent Taylor had passed away, I initially wanted to fly a flag for him,” Fox said.
Fox said that life got in the way, and he didn’t get it done. However, a phone call came requesting the flag to be flown.
Within 72 hours, Big Betsy was flying in Coldwater Canyon near North Ogden in honor of Major Brent Taylor.
Brent Taylor’s wife Jennie also spoke Thursday morning in Pleasant Grove at the flag unfurling ceremony when Big Betsy was released.
“I’ll never forget the last time i saw Big Betsy fly in a canyon,” Jennie Taylor said. “Actually, it was also the first time I saw her fly, and it was on a cold and windy autumn morning, Veteran’s Day morning in fact.”
It was one week after Brent Taylor had been killed.
Jennie Taylor said that Sunday morning, her sister picked her and her seven children up to take them for what she thought was a Sunday morning drive. She related that they drove to Barker Park in North Ogden. Her sister led her up to the berm at the top of the amphitheater where the first thing she saw was a small American Flag on a PVC pipe and then she caught her first glimpse of Big Betsy.
“There are certain images of our beautiful Star Spangled Banner that are simply emblazoned on the very flesh of my heart forever,” Jennie Taylor said. “I’ll never forget what I saw and felt that morning.”
Fox said that when Big Betsy sustained damage Thursday, he didn’t reach out to the Ogden chapter because he “didn’t want to take the thunder out of flying a brand new flag in our canyon, take that away from them at all.”
The Major was originally supposed to have its initial flight Nov. 2-12 in Coldwater Canyon, on the anniversary of Brent Taylor’s death and for Veterans Day.
But organizers said that when there was a need in North Ogden, Fox and his team jumped at the chance to help, and the action was reciprocated by the Ogden chapter.
Last July 4, Big Betsy also sustained damage. During its unfurling in 2018, a pull string snagged and broke. The flag could not fully unfurl, and started to rip. High winds blowing through the canyon caused more damage.
Volunteers brought the flag back to Pleasant Grove High School’s football field, where they were able to repair it.
The Major will fly through Monday evening, when it will be taken down. A flag retirement ceremony will be held at 8 that evening.
Other events Follow the Flag are hosting this weekend include the Battle Beneath the Flag CrossFit competition, a Freedom Ride motorcycle ride and the Run2Remember 5k trail run, all on Saturday. More information can be found at http://followtheflag.org.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for donations to replace Big Betsy.