MACKINAW CITY, Mich. — On the Fourth of July, an "ingenious new reel" will be used to fly an American flag from Mackinac Bridge. 

Because the massive flag is 30 feet tall by 60 feet long, it can be a challenge hanging it properly. But the Mackinac Bridge Authority developed a brand new system that will be used for the first time on Thursday. 

The flag will be hung from the south tower of the Mackinac Bridge. It is only displayed on six holidays a year: Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Patriots Day and Veterans Day. 

MBA Maintenance Supervisor Ned McLennan led the charge in finding an efficient way of hanging and storing the flag. Before this, the MBA staff would stop traffic and about a dozen people would unroll it as it was hoisted beneath the tower.

Mackinac Bridge American flag
Mackinac Bridge Authority Maintenance Supervisor Ned McLennan and his mother, Patti, with the bridge’s new American flag reel. He oversaw design and fabrication of the device, while she reinforced the hem of the flag.
Mackinac Bridge Authority

McLennan devised a way to store the flag in something similar to a rolled up window curtain and lower it using a remote control. The entire system can be operated by one person and does not require traffic to be stopped. 

Rolling large flags for storage is an acceptable flag etiquette, according to McLennan's research. 

It took MBA staff about two years to create the new reel system, which they completed in between other bridge projects. It is painted the same color as the iconic ivory towers, and it took several days to install the whole system. 

“The hardest part of it has been trying to think of all the potential problems and develop solutions. From installation to operation we have brainstormed many times to try and think of everything," said McLennan. 

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