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Flap over flags: Manteca says flags are still in good shape
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No red flags here.

Not yet at least.

Labor Day and the 12th anniversary of 9-11 are fast-approaching, which means the streets of Manteca will be lined with approximately 2,500 American flags, a longstanding tradition that honors Manteca’s fallen soldiers.

After all these years, Chamber of Commerce CEO Debby Moorhead says the flags, purchased through sponsorships and donations following the terrorist attacks of 2001, are still suitable to fly.

That’s not to say Moorhead’s tip line hasn’t rung once or twice regarding Old Glory and the Flags Over Manteca program.

Six months ago, Moorhead fielded a complaint about the state of the flags. The flags, the volunteer contended, were in such disarray that they needed to be retired. She immediately followed up on the claim with Les Thomas, who oversees the storage of the flags.

Thomas is a veteran of the Korean War and therefore qualified to judge the welfare of the flags. He found nothing alarming about the condition of the flags, according to Moorhead.

The all-weather flags are flown 10 times a year and never in the rain, and never for more than 12 hours at a time. If there’s even a chance of rain, Moorhead said the flags remain rolled up. All told, the flags have been flown as many times as 116 times for less than 1,392 hours in the last 11-plus years.

“They’re in really good condition,” she said. “I’m just personally really happy with the condition they’re in. … We’d never do anything disrespectful to the flag. I take that statement very personal, because we wouldn’t do anything like that. We’re trying to do the opposite; we’re trying to be patriotic.”

It does raise an interesting thought, though: Perhaps the city should put in place a plan – and possibly set aside money – to have the flags replaced when the time comes. Replacing the flags won’t be cheap; the Chamber and city raised $60,000 for the flags and hardware in 2001.

Better yet, perhaps this is an initiative a local service group or club could undertake, beginning in earnest. It could serve as a great history lesson and teaching tool for its members, as well as showcase the true power of community.

Call it proactive patriotism.

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St. Paul’s waiting on play structure

A Bobcat tractor rumbled around the sandbox at St. Paul’s Preschool on Tuesday afternoon, skirting around a mound of sand nearly as tall as the swing set.

Once a familiar sight for those traveling along East North Street, the play structure, with its suspension bridge and fireman’s pole, has been retired after 21 years of service.

Staff had hoped to welcome students back with the unveiling of a revamped playground, but a scheduling snafu means St. Paul’s staff will have to find other ways to keep the children entertained.

Preschool open houses and orientation begin on Thursday.

Construction will continue through the week and possibly into next as Marrs Playground Installation Company races to install the new equipment, valued at approximately $32,000.

When it’s complete, the play structure promises to be a sure-fire hit with the 4-foot-and-under crowd.

The earth-toned structure from GameTime/MRC Recreation will feature multiple slides and a seating area.

The kids won’t be allowed in the playground area while construction is taking place, which may be a tough sell for a few teachers.

Two classrooms have doors that feed directly into the playground area.

“The playground was 21 years old,” St. Paul’s Julie Garcia said. “It was time; we decided to get a brand new one.”

• • •

Hot off the press: Chili Cook-off winners

Talk about your cool beans.

Jack Hempworth and Patricia McGathy were the big winners of Saturday’s 5th annual Second Harvest Food Bank Chili Cook-Off.

The event raised money to feed needy families throughout the San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. It featured as many as 20 contestants, including local cooking celebrity Michael Midgley (of Ernie’s and Top Chef fame) and 2012 champion Myles Weber.

But there could only be one winner.

Hempworth was crowned the overall champion, netting a cash prize of $300.

McGathy was named the People’s Choice award winner, collecting a prize of $100.

Johnny Baynton was the runner-up and winner of the “hottest table,” according to Manteca Fire Chief and Second Harvest Food Bank Board President Kirk Waters.

Debbee Tarr, owner of Manteca’s Grocery Outlet, was third.

Contact James Burns with the odd and interesting at