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NorthWestern Energy installs American flag at Black Eagle Dam

Flag erected as a show of patriotism and to honor veterans
Black Eagle Dam flag
Posted at 9:20 AM, Jun 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-15 11:20:44-04

GREAT FALLS — You can't miss the newly-erected American flag at Black Eagle Dam in Great Falls.

"It was a far bigger endeavor than we kind of imagined it would be," said Derck Besich, NorthWestern Energy Up-River Operations Foreman.

Perched just above the water at the dam is a 105-foot tall flagpole erected by NorthWestern Energy flying a 30 foot by 60 foot American flag.

"The initial foresight was to have it on the dam itself, and we did go through the process of trying to make that happen. After that engineering study was completed, it told the story that that wasn't going to be a viable option at all," Besich explained.

The flag was raised on Memorial Day, the culmination of a multi-year effort.

Fittingly the Black Eagle Dam is directly across the river from the Montana Veterans Memorial, the motivation for putting up the flag.

"Just kind of pay those guys a tribute and that dam seems like it's one of the most photographed places if not even sometimes Montana. So, just (to) be a little more patriotic. It seemed like a very appropriate place," Besich said.

NorthWestern Energy employees with a connection to the military helped raise the flag.

"Two guys can lift the box that it's in, but it's pretty heavy. Then, trying to get it out of the storage container up onto the pole without it touching the ground. The day we did it, it was a little windy until we flew it and then it kind of calmed down for a little bit," said Jerry Gray, NorthWestern Energy Great Falls Hydro Dam Operations and Maintenance Superintendent.

Gray said the flag is a very moving sight.

American Flag at Black Eagle Dam
American Flag at Black Eagle Dam

"Knowing the work that went into it and the pride that we have and being able to honor the veterans was quite patriotic," said Gray.

The flag pole is five feet shorter than the one at Flag Hill in Great Falls, where the city's annual Flag Day ceremony was held on Wednesday morning, but the flag itself is 10 feet bigger than the one at Flag Hill.

The ceremony included a C-130 flyover, remarks from local and federal representatives, speeches written by Great Falls elementary school students about the American flag, and patriotic songs.

"Let's take advantage of having this great reminder waiving in the wind, flapping to us the many struggles, sacrifices, and stories that make up our national identity. Look up from your travels or your window or your walk and let the flag fill you with pride," said Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly, speaking to the crowd at the ceremony.


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