The World’s Largest American Flag Takes 600 People To Unfurl (VIDEO)

Patriotic displays don’t get much bigger than this. At 505 feet wide and 3,000 pounds, “The Superflag” is the world’s largest American flag. Each star on the enormous banner is nearly two stories high, and it takes 600 people to unfurl it. lf this giant giant version of “Old Glory” looks familiar (besides, of course, the standard stars and stripes), that’s because it makes stops at events across the country. It’s been displayed at the Super Bowl, Daytona International Speedway, the Washington Monument and even on the face of the Hoover Dam. Check out the above video of the flag at a recent Flag Day celebration at Longaberger Basket HQ in Ohio. But remember: it’s not the size of your flag that matters, it’s how you use it.

Flags without countries

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Do you recognize this flag? Neither did I. It’s the flag of Lapland. Lapland isn’t a country, but a region in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia where the Sámi (Lapps) live. Only Norway recognizes this flag, and it’s flown throughout the country on February 6 to celebrate Sámi National Day.

I discovered this flag in Aberystwyth, Wales, of all places, while walking along the seaside promenade. It was flying proudly in the stiff breeze and caught my attention because I’d never seen it before. Then I noticed a whole line of flags I’d never seen before. A sign explained that because the Welsh so rarely see their flag flying in foreign countries, they decided to fly the flags of various European regions that are seeking autonomy or independence. The display of flags without countries was an interesting lesson in European politics and history. Several are shown in the gallery.

%Gallery-129478%Europe is a patchwork of different languages and cultural groups. Many are subsumed into greater national entities and this causes friction. One of the deepest divides in Europe is between is in Belgium, where Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south may very well become two different countries. Luckily this debate has been nonviolent, although not always civil.

Many regions are looking for greater linguistic recognition. France’s strict one-language policy has raised the ire of groups that speak other languages, such as the people of Britanny and Alsace. Some linguistic regions, like Occitania, run across more than one country, further complicating any attempt at greater recognition.

Some independence movements are small, like that in Sardinia, while other are marred by a radical extreme that has undermined the legitimacy of the general movement, like in Corsica and the Basque region.

While none of the flags shown here represent actual nations, they do reflect the feelings of vibrant cultures that enrich Europe. Many of the people who fly these flags probably realize they won’t ever see true independence, and some may not even want it. They fly these flags to show the world who they are. And you never know, when the monument was set up in Aberystwyth, it included the flags of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and they’re real nations now!

If you’re interested in flags, check out the amazing Flags of the World website for lots more.

Flags of the World: the ultimate online resource for flags

flags, flag, GreenlandI’ve always loved flags. They say so much about a place, and every little province and town seems to have one.

Take this one, for example. It’s the flag of Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland. This town is at the chilly latitude of 69°14′50″ N on an island of the same name off the west coast of Greenland. Given its location, it’s natural that it has a whale and northern lights on its emblem. Qeqertarsuaq’s population is barely more than 900, yet it has a flag!

Where did this arcane information come from? A cool website called Flags of the World. This online haven for vexillology (the study of flags) has been around since the early 1990s and has almost 80,000 images of flags from everywhere you can imagine. All the flags added to the site run the gauntlet of FOTW’s discussion group, a hard core of a thousand or so vexillologists who do some serious fact checking. If they aren’t sure it’s 100% correct, they say so, as with the Qeqertarsuaq flag. If only the researchers over at Wikipedia were so honest!

On the front page is a clickable world map. Click on a continent and you see all the countries. Click on the countries and you get states and provinces, along with lists of counties, cities, historic flags, and military flags. When my kid was three he got obsessed with this and we had lots of fun flying around in our imaginary plane exploring the world. There’s even a free printable flag coloring book. My kid preferred doing the flags freehand, and presented his teachers (who are from Kenya and Uganda) with their national flags.

The site has historic flags as well, and the latest news on new flags, or even old/new flags such as pre-1969 flag of Libya, which has become the standard for the anti-Qaddafi rebels. The website is always expanding, so if one of your local flags is missing, drop them a line.

Check out the gallery for more rare and unusual flags from Flags of the World!

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[Thanks to http://flagspot.net for special permission to reproduce these flags. Qeqertarsuaq flag image by António Martins-Tuválkin]

The 11 coolest flags in the world?

The travelers here at Gadling have seen a lot of world flags. We’ve seen the world’s flags made out of food. We were also amused by this opinionated list ranking the world’s best and worst flags. But we just can’t seem to get enough. In fact, in the interest of your ongoing and insatiable need for world flag amusement, we’ve stumbled across yet another list of the “11 Coolest Flags Ever” and wanted to share it (just because we like you).

This new list has no consistent methodology for selection. And some of the flags represent countries and empires that no longer exist. But leave that aside for a moment and simply admire the sheer visual awesomeness of the flags that were selected. In addition to the bear holding the axe shown above (Yaroslavl Oblast in Russia), this highly scientific list includes a flag with a parrot (Dominica), an flag with an AK-47 and a book (Mozambique) and of course the flag of a guy getting beheaded (Benin Empire – don’t mess with them).

Each of these off-the-wall official banners raises an interesting question. What exactly does a flag represent? Does it tell the story of a country’s history and/or creation? Do the colors of the flag have symbolic significance? Perhaps flags don’t mean anything at all – as you can see from Libya’s flag, sometimes you just don’t even bother. Make sure to check out the list and leave us a comment if you know of any “cooler” flags, either historical or current.

Fake Canadians go home

I’m as mad as a polar bear reading about global warming. Everywhere I look I see Canadian flags on backpacks. A maple leaf seems to be as important an item of budget travel gear as daddy’s credit card, but there’s one problem–many of the people flashing the good old red, white, and red aren’t Canadian.

I am.

I’ve taken to asking people their nationality when I see them sporting a Canadian flag and only about half turn out to be Canadian. The other half are American. No Brits, no Aussies, no Latvians. It seems the fake Canadians all come from south of the border.

Are they illegal immigrants coming to steal our heath care and eat all our maple syrup? No, they’re pretending to be Canadians because their guidebooks have told them they’ll be safer in all those scary foreign countries. Americans are targets, the guidebooks warn, so it’s best to lay low. Lonely Planet started this ridiculous trend, but I’ve spotted the advice in other guidebooks too. It’s stupid, and here’s why.

First off, it’s hypocritical. I’ve seen these sunshine patriots screech with rage when anyone says anything the least bit negative about the U.S., but they’ll gladly give up their identity on the advice of some random guidebook writer. If you’re proud to be American, that’s great, the U.S. has a lot going for it, but then show you’re proud by wearing an AMERICAN flag.
Secondly, the idea that a Canadian flag will protect you overseas is simply untrue. Thieves see you as a rich Westerner, and don’t care whether you come from Manitoba or Montana. Terrorists see you as an evil Westerner, and don’t care either. Some of the biggest attacks against travelers have been against British and Germans, not Americans. Besides, while the Canadian flag is a glorious national emblem, sublime in its simplicity and beauty, it is not bomb proof. Suicide attacks don’t discriminate and usually take out more locals than foreigners.

Thirdly, Americans aren’t as hated as they think. Oh, there are the jokes about fat, ignorant Americans that unite the world from Egypt to Ecuador, but few people really mean Americans any harm. I know, because I am regularly mistaken for one. When I worked and traveled for a couple of years in the Middle East, nobody threatened me. I even witnessed the 14th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Isfahan, Iran, and didn’t have a problem. In fact, the entire month I was in Iran people constantly assumed I was American (or British, equally bad according to government propaganda) but I was never threatened. Instead I was treated to embarrassing levels of hospitality and the only danger was the very real possibility of being fed to death on massive dinners and cloyingly sweet desserts. The Iranians, it seems, can distinguish between people and governments. Oh, I occasionally had to endure odious lectures on the evils of Israel or how Zionists run Washington (snore) but I was never treated to even so much as a harsh word. It was the same in Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Turkey.

So Americans, please, show some love for your country and wear your own flag. The world doesn’t hate you as much as you think it does. But I wouldn’t suggest wearing a t-shirt saying “Employee of the U.S. Government”. That’s what most people are really ticked off about.

And if you are truly that embarrassed by your own country, I suggest one of two things–either stay home and work on fixing it, or move to Canada. We’re underpopulated, so there’s plenty of room.