A 30- by 60-foot American flag was displayed on the back wall of the Lobero Theatre for 56 minutes Thursday in observance of Flag Day.
Paul Lamberton, president of the Spirit of ’76 Association, said this year’s display paid respect to the Americans who perished on 9/11. “When the attack took place on the World Trade Center, the South Tower collapsed in 56 minutes,” he said. “We chose to honor those minutes.”
Lamberton explained the Lobero’s flag is a Garrison flag, meaning it is largest in the community. Attendees seemed to appreciate the peaceful moment of its unfurling.
World War II veteran Eddy Cavallero took the time to reflect on his service. “I didn’t like what I was doing, but I had to fight,” he said. “I’m here to honor the flag, the flag I fought for.”
In past years, the flag would remain flying through July 4th, when the Spirit of ’76 holds its annual 4th of July Parade. But much like a sail on a boat, Lamberton explained, the flag’s large surface area gathers wind and puts pressure on the Lobero Theatre. Weighing a little less than 300 pounds, the flag could cause damage to the historical landmark, he said.
The president of the all-volunteer association was proud to have the flag adorn the Lobero Theatre’s wall again after two years of absence. “This is the start of a return of a community tradition,” he said.
Lamberton said the flag will then fly in the courthouse’s Sunken Gardens on July 4th. The Spirit of ’76 Association will also hold its 50th Annual 4th of July Parade, which will celebrate this year’s theme of the gift of individual liberty.
Another large symbol — 90 feet long and 14 feet high, to be exact — will also make an appearance in the parade this year. A blue whale float will make its way through the streets of Santa Barbara in an attempt to raise awareness of the endangered species and the threat that cargo ships pose to their well-being.
Gershon Cohen, project director for the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters and codirector for the Great Whale Conservancy, reached out to Lamberton in hopes of having the lifelike float — dubbed Miz Blue — in the parade. Cohen believes the parade will serve as the perfect event to publicly debut Miz Blue, given the prevalence of blue whales off the shores of Santa Barbara.
“Santa Barbara is at the center of the whale-ship collision issue in that the Channel Islands right off the coast are one of the principal places where cargo ships are traveling through,” he said. The area also happens to be a major feeding habitat for blue whales, he added.
According to Cohen, each year “most people are still very unaware that this is going on and how many whales are being killed,” he said. “So we decided to create this whale so we could show the public and use it as a way to open the dialogue on the issue.”
Although there isn’t anything traditionally patriotic about a non-red, non-white blue whale, Cohen insisted that Miz Blue would fit right in at the parade.
“I believe and I know Miz Blue believes that individual liberty should extend to all intelligent beings on earth and not just humans, and not just citizens of the United States,” said Cohen. “We should all be able to enjoy liberty.”
Cohen said Miz Blue will make her debut in the parade and then continue to make appearances around the country, visting more parades, schools, and government agencies that regulate oceanic transit lanes.
Lamberton said he was honored that Cohen chose the Spirit of ’76 to help publicly launch Miz Blue. “It has been an amazing undertaking. He has a real passion for this cause,” he said.