Vexillonairing in Coos Bay

By Scott Mainwaring and Ted Kaye, based on reporting by Devan Patel and Tim Novotny in the Coos Bay World

Vexillonnaires in Coos Bay, on the southern Oregon coast, have prompted the redesign of a prominent flag display along the city’s waterfront.

In 1991 residents wanting to “spruce up” Coos Bay convinced the city to fly flags representing the 34 countries that used it as a port of call.  Flag poles along the boardwalk and Central Avenue flew these flags for 18 years, when in 2009 the city passed a resolution to fly only U.S. flags until troops returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

US flags fly along the Coos Bay Boardwalk.  Photo by Lou Sennick, The World.
US flags fly along the Coos Bay Boardwalk. Photo by Lou Sennick, The World.
International flags fly along the Coos Bay Boardwalk.  Photo from Oregon Coast magazine.
International flags fly along the Coos Bay Boardwalk. Photo from Oregon Coast magazine.

In 2012 the question of returning to the previous display was put before the city council, which voted against the measure. This year, feeling an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was within sight, a city council subcommittee again proposed changing a return to international diversity, but adding flags of states, Indian tribes, and countries particularly significant to the region. An anonymous donor would fund the new flags.

Mayor Crystal Shoji supported the idea, saying “We would like to have an interesting display that tells a story about our community.”  The Coos Bay World was also supportive, asserting that “…flying these flags is a necessary expression of the city’s soul, and its ability to recognize and respect the world outside our own little island community.”

Replacing the US flags was controversial, especially among veterans.  The city council delayed voting on the proposal in order to ask the public for more input.  Finally, on December 2 they approved the redesign of the display, with the compromise that US flags would continue to fly along Central Avenue.

The new display will consist of US state flags (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and California), country flags (Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, South Korea, Philippines, and Australia), and “locally significant entity” flags (City of Coos Bay; City of North Bend; the Coquille Indian Tribe; the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians). In addition, a flag declaring the Port of Coos Bay to be the Tall Ship Port of Oregon will be flown.

Flags to be included in Coos Bay's boardwalk display.  Missing: City of Coos Bay and Tall Ship Port of Oregon flags.  Images from Wikimedia Commons and FOTW.
Flags to be included in Coos Bay’s boardwalk display. Missing: City of Coos Bay and Tall Ship Port of Oregon flags. Images from Wikimedia Commons and FOTW.
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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

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