Mile-plus pride flag to unfurl in Key West

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 14 2003 11:00 PM ET

The artist credited with creating the rainbow flag as a gay and lesbian symbol is sewing a 1.25-mile-long, 16-foot-wide version of the banner to be unfurled in Key West, Fla., on June 15, the final day of the city's PrideFest event.

Gilbert Baker's mammoth creation is to be displayed along the entire length of Duval Street, the island's main thoroughfare, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Baker created the original rainbow flag in San Francisco 25 years ago as a symbol of gay pride in response to antigay activities.

As well as honoring the banner's birth, the 2003 flag will re-create Baker's original eight-color design. The 1978 flag lost two original colors--pink because it could not be commercially reproduced at that
time and turquoise for logistical reasons, Baker said.

The two colors will be represented in his Key West flag, along with the traditional red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, and violet.

"Some of my friends call me the Betsy Ross of the gay community," Baker said Friday evening, after he and about 60 Key West residents stretched out a 100-foot test section.

The flag's debut will also kick off rainbow flag 25th-anniversary events around the United States. Sections of the banner are to travel to 100 cities, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

Baker, a San Francisco resident, estimates the flag will require approximately 17,600 linear yards of fabric and weigh more than three tons. More than 25 miles of seams must be stitched before the project
is completed, he said.

Because of the weight of the fabric, Baker and two assistants work together to form each seam. About 3,000 people will be needed to deploy the flag, he said.

"To figure out how to pack it and how to deal with the volume of fabric, I studied the way fire hoses are folded and loaded into trucks," he said. "It has to be folded very carefully so it will never twist."