American flags return to Sherman Green after banners were taken down

Photo of Josh LaBella

FAIRFIELD — American flags are back on display after being taken down right before the Fourth of July weekend, according to First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick.

The original banner-like flags were taken down Tuesday, Kupchick said, after a member of the Representative Town Meeting complained that the business owner who had put them there had not gone through the proper channels when posting them.

She did not identify the RTM member.

They were back up Wednesday afternoon. Kupchick said their removal was because of a “misunderstanding.”

“As the First Selectwoman, I’m always willing to work with members of our community to find solutions,” she said in an email Thursday morning. “In the instance, there was a misunderstanding on a verbal agreement during the early days of the pandemic between the park and rec department and Saugatuck Sweets regarding displays on town property.

“I decided the town would decorate the green with American flags to celebrate Independence Day. I also approved the Tree of Hope to be lit during the holiday weekend with the red, white and blue lights,” she wrote.

The saga started on Tuesday, when a Facebook post by Saugatuck Sweets owner Al DiGuido about the flags and lights around a Tree of Hope he donated to the town got shared nearly 90 times with comments in support of the flags and against the order to remove them.

“It saddens me deeply that, due to several complaints regarding the American flags, Tree of Hope lights and signage on the green, that the Town of Fairfield has asked us to remove all of the above today,” DiGuido’s post read. “We have removed everything as per their request. The Tree of Hope will not be lit moving forward.”

Kupchick said the Parks and Recreation Commission approved the Tree of Hope on Sherman Green in October 2019 with an agreement the tree would be lit from November through Jan. 15. She said patriotic flag banners were added in March.

“Park and Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese spoke to Mr. DiGuido during the pandemic about adding patriotic flags on the green and maintaining the lights through July 1 in an effort to lift the spirits of our community and give hope during a very challenging time for our town,” she said.

As the commission was not meeting at the time, Kupchick said Calabrese unilaterally approved the request and DiGuido put up the flags where they remained until Tuesday. The lights were never taken down.

“Last night, I asked our fire and police to gather as many American flags as we could find so together we could line downtown Fairfield with flags to celebrate the Fourth of July,” Kupchick said. “I look forward to putting American flags up downtown today and celebrating America’s Independence throughout the weekend.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Kupchick said members of the public works, parks and recreation, police and fire departments helped her decorate Sherman Green with American flags.

“I hope our residents will enjoy the flags over the holiday weekend, especially since we had to cancel the fireworks this year” Kupchick said. “I encourage our community to come together to celebrate Independence Day this weekend.”