Happy National Flag Day, Canada! Today we celebrate fifty years of our nation’s unifying symbol: the Canadian Flag.

By 1965, the maple leaf was already commonly used by Canadians to signify their unique identity from the rest of the British Commonwealth. However, the country’s flag was still the Canadian Red Ensign, which featured the Union Jack and the Canadian Coat of Arms. Prime Minister Lester Pearson recognized that Canada had come of age and so he commissioned the design of the country’s new flag. The Canadian Flag was raised for the first time at noon on February 15, 1965.

The Calgary Stampede flying the Union Jack and Red Ensign, 1955.
The Calgary Stampede flying the Union Jack and Red Ensign, 1955.

Stampede Park has proudly flown the Canadian flag since 1965. It is most visible today from the large steel flagpole in Indian Village, which stretches 63 metres (207 feet) high. Stampede Park’s flagpole has an interesting heritage, as explained below.

The World’s Tallest Wooden Flagpole

The first flagpole that stood in Indian Village was made of a single Douglas Fir tree, which was gifted to the Calgary Stampede from the British Columbia government in 1981. Standing 62 metres (204 feet) high, it was the largest wooden flagpole in the world![1] The massive tree had required the efforts of 37 loggers to remove from the ground. It was then hauled overland on a logging truck to Calgary, and established in Indian Village in 1982. Just five years after the CN Tower had overshadowed the Calgary Tower as Canada’s tallest tower, the Calgary Stampede’s flagpole surpassed Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibit flagpole as the tallest wooden flagpole in the world.[2]

Logging truck carrying the Douglas Fir tree to Calgary. Photo Courtesy of the “From Camp to Community” Virtual Museum, BC Forest Discovery Centre.
Logging truck carrying the Douglas Fir tree to Calgary. Photo Courtesy of the “From Camp to Community” Virtual Museum, BC Forest Discovery Centre.
The world's tallest wooden flagpole, Indian Village circa 1985.
The world’s tallest wooden flagpole, Indian Village circa 1985.

Unfortunately, over the next 19 years, the pole’s core began to rot, so it was replaced in 2001 by the steel flagpole that stands in Indian Village today.[3] While the pole has changed, the flag—and the spirit of national unity that it represents—has remained the same, and the Stampede is proud to honour that spirit. On February 15 we encourage you to fly your Canadian flag… we sure will be.

 

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[1] Kerry Williamson, “Stampede flagpole gets trashy ending,” Calgary Herald, September 29,2001.

[2] Williamson, “Stampede flagpole.”

[3] “The Flag Pole,” http://www.docstoc.com/docs/32913567/The-Flag-Pole (retrieved February 10, 2015).