Winchester Downtown Revitalization Committee dresses Winchester in time for Canada’s 150th

Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — The Winchester Downtown Revitalization Committee has planted a celebratory flag on the village — and then some.

The last group out of 53 patriotic flags adorning the community went up in advance of the July 1st holiday recently — all of it the handiwork of a cadre of volunteers with Winchester’s Downtown Revitalization Committee.

“All of the flags are up that are going to go up,” says Vince Zandbelt, key member of the committee, not counting 10 more waiting to go up near Winchester Foodland pending sidewalk and pole upgrades. That final bunch will bring the number to 63 flags in total.

The flags include 18 switchable units in the immediate downtown area — stylized versions of the Canada 150 flag — which are set to be changed over to a special Dairyfest design when that festival goes ahead later this summer.

The remainder of the complement comprises a red maple leaf design similar to the Canadian flag but with a reoriented leaf and slanted red side bars.

“The idea is to follow the flags to downtown,” says Zandbelt of the red and white banners extending out east, west and south of Sweet Corner Park.

Zandbelt and fellow committee member Owen Shortt, are particularly proud of the custom aluminum bracket they designed in concert with Dundas Machine. They emphasize it’s part of their approach of locally sourcing materials when possible.

Seen in above photo, Zandbelt holds the innovative flag supports. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

The flags themselves came through J.D. Van Noy of Lannin Lumber, who donated the first eight.

Aside from a $5,000 municipal grant awarded this year, the money was all privately generated — and without calling on potential donors.

“All of our money we’ve raised is from Ribfest, the Dream Vacation ticket sales, and the grant from North Dundas Township,” says Shortt.

“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we haven’t asked people for money,” says Zandbelt, who volunteers his time climbing ladders and poles for the initiative.

“A number of people have no clue this is a volunteer program,” emphasizes Shortt, who wishes to dispel any public perception that those associated with the project are being remunerated by the municipality. “That’s not the case.”

Thanks to the legwork of Zandbelt and Shortt, the innovative bracket design and flag procurement arrangement with Van Noy has spread to Morewood. The duo say they’ve also been in touch with organizers of a similar ongoing effort in South Mountain. “Marionville has called up and they want to do something as well.”

Equipped with safety chains and locking clips to ensure the beefy metallic units never drop to ground or threaten public safety, the brackets are used interchangeably between flags and banners as well as the committee’s inventory of Christmas wreaths.

A phased-in success of the last three winters, the collection of wreaths adorning downtown Winchester will reach its total planned number of 21 this Christmas. Zandbelt said they were fortunate to erect the first group of lit-up wreaths in the downtown core before Hydro One changed the rules and prohibited decorations on poles shared with transformer equipment.

Shortt (left) and Zandbelt hold an example of the existing Christmas wreaths, which use the same support system as the new flags, making the switch easy between seasons. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

As a result, the Winchester committee is grandfathered to use downtown poles that would otherwise be off-limits, ensuring an unbroken line-up of wreaths in prime locations, according to Zandbelt.

The brackets alone would be worth at least $160 apiece, Shortt estimates, if not for Dundas Machine manufacturing them at cost. Add in the potential cost of the flags, and a community that simply cut a cheque to do what Winchester has done would be in for about $200 at each of those 63 flag locations, he says. On top of that, each of the 21 wreaths cost $600 to $800 apiece.

While the wreaths are purchased from outside the community, they’ve benefited from a custom local touch in upgraded ribbons produced by Linda Thompson of Winchester. (Editor’s note: We’ve corrected the name of the ribbon-maker.)

Some of the collection of 53 flags now adorning Winchester, looking east on Main Street. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News


Vince Zandbelt provided this video of the newly installed O Canada chimes making their June 28 debut at Sweet Corner Park in Winchester — another initiative of the village’s downtown revitalization committee.


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