Volunteers spent time getting 154 new American Flags ready to be installed in Houlton as part of a community-wide effort. The project was spearheaded by Pioneer Broadband. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — The American flag will fly proudly in downtown Houlton after all, thanks to a group of volunteers and a local business.

On Wednesday, when news broke that the American Legion was not able to assemble enough flags or volunteers to hang them, residents of the greater Houlton area quickly sprang into action.

The idea of flags not being displayed throughout the downtown and North Street — especially for the Fourth of July weekend — drew heavy criticism online, and prompted one local businessman to mobilize resources.

Megan Burrows of Pioneer Broadband assembles a flag Thursday morning as part of a community-wide effort to see new flags placed in downtown Houlton. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Tim McAfee, CEO of Pioneer Broadband in Houlton, spearheaded a volunteer effort to acquire enough flags on short notice and place them around the town. As a veteran, McAfee said the notion of Houlton not having flags for the Fourth of July was inconceivable.

“I’m a veteran and I work with veterans and spouses of veterans,” McAfee said. “The thought of our streets not being adorned with the stars and stripes on the Independence Day holiday seems unAmerican. And when I found out the reason they weren’t being put up was because of a lack of resources, I looked at our own and knew we could make something happen.”

A company representative purchased all 154 of the 3-by-5-foot flags Lowe’s in Presque Isle had in stock, at a cost of $1,620. A GoFundMe account was created to assist with the purchase. The goal was met in an hour and a half.

David Tucker, owner of  TNT Takeout, helps assemble one of 154 flags that were purchased thanks to community donations. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

A group of volunteers assembled the flags at Pioneer Broadband Thursday morning, and the company planned to start placing them later in the day.

The issue of the town’s flags first arose at a June 13 council meeting when councilor Edward Lake said he was concerned about how the banners had not been properly maintained in previous years.

American Legion members said at Monday’s council meeting that the flags were not placed this year because of a shortage of volunteers and equipment, as well as a large number of last year’s flags were not in good enough condition to be flown.

McAfee said he has come up with a possible solution to any concerns over flag etiquette and will meet with representatives of the American Legion to discuss his plan. His idea involves the company’s continued participation and minimizing the amount of time the flags are flown, thus abiding by flag etiquette rules and making the banners last longer.