The existence of a massive American flag near the shores of Pea Hill Creek came to the attention of the Lake Gaston Gazette-Observer on Friday afternoon via a helpful caller providing the news tip.
“The biggest American flag you’ll ever see,” the caller said.
The Gazette-Observer’s intrepid reporter had its doubts, but made its way down Lizard Creek Road and past Washburn’s Marina in search of the flag.
Sure enough, it was bigger than big.
Fifty feet wide, 20 feet tall, to be exact.
Located east of the mouth of Pea Hill Creek, it may not be record-setting; There’s a gargantuan American flag in Gastonia reported to be 114 feet wide, 65 feet tall. That one is an actual flag, hanging from a pole.
But the Pea Hill Creek version of Old Glory is huge, no doubt. And more important to the Winston family that strung it between some tall pines on a hillside, their Stars and Stripes is drawing a lot of patriotic praise from boaters passing by on Fourth of July weekend.
“We wanted to put it somewhere where everybody could see it,” Steve Winston said.
Nailed it, Steve.
And even more important to the Winstons, who hail from the Richmond, Va. area, than the positive emotions the flag is evoking, is what they feel the flag stands for.
“That flag stands for what we are,” said Hunter Winston, Steve’s son. “Many people have died for that flag.”
The other Winston involved here is Steve’s brother Eric.
The whole family works in construction and that’s where the material for the flag came from. It was a white tarp, the kind normally used on construction sites.
It took about 12 hours to turn it into an American flag. Steve said he used a steel fabricator to punch out the stars before the stripes were taped out and painted red.
They used Hunter’s tree stand and an extension ladder to hang it Friday morning with a cable and D-rings, and according to Steve, works kind of like a curtain. If a storm comes, they can fold it back to the tree.
The Winston family has been visiting the Pea Hill hideaway, which features a panoramic view of the lake, since 1962.
That’s all of Steve’s, Eric’s and Hunter’s lives.
“A little piece of paradise,” Hunter said.
It was made even more enjoyable for the Fourth with the extra splash of red, white and blue.
Initially, the family wanted to keep the flag hanging in a more public space closer to home, but that didn’t quite work out.
So it ended up at Lake Gaston. Actually, it has a twin, which they won’t have time to display for this holiday. But be on the lookout.
The Winstons have done these sort of tarp projects before, in the past, hanging signs to thank veterans.
On Friday, the boaters were thanking them for the holiday display. Some honked their horns and waved. One man from across the water yelled, “God bless America.”
“It ain’t a freakin’ political thing either,” Eric said. “It’s nothing about that. It’s about America. It’s about that flag and what it stands for.”