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One man’s vision, supported by others, created Old Glory on the River

Flag flies proudly in Des Moines River

A powerful symbol of the United States stands all by itself in the middle of the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge.

It’s a large American flag flying from a pole that extends skyward from a block of concrete that once helped to support the Bennett Viaduct. Called Old Glory on the River, it can be seen by people crossing the Karl King Viaduct and the Kenyon Road Bridge.

Old Glory on the River was the vision of Fort Dodge resident Ron Newsum. He was down by the river about 16 years ago for a dragon boat race when he spotted the old bridge support and immediately thought it would be a good place to have an American flag. He talked up his idea and solicited donations to pay for it. By February 2004, a flag pole was placed on the bridge pier. On June 14, 2004, Flag Day, a flag was hoisted up the pole and the site was formally dedicated.

Newsum wasn’t done with patriotic efforts, however. He went on to become the lead organizer of the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight, a program that takes veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the nation’s war memorials. The first of those journeys was in May 2010, and there have been two flights a year since then.

Old Glory on the River exists because of the vision of Newsum. Fort Dodge is lucky that a man so dedicated to his country and community calls the city home.

Old Glory on the River also exists because of those individuals, groups and businesses that believed in Newsum’s vision and contributed money to make it possible. A pizza fundraiser at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility now pays for the flags. Each flag measures 15-by-25-feet and costs about $450.

The flag display is also made possible by the city’s firefighters. The Fire Department has a boat to get to the bridge support. The firefighters have the nerve to climb up a ladder from the boat bobbing in the river current to the top of the pier. They are the ones who raised the orginal flag and they make regular trips to the bridge pier to replace tattered flags with crisp new ones.

We urge everyone to take a moment to gaze upon Old Glory on the River and remember all those who made it possible.

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