Girl's passion for Flanders flag never wavered

Through the persistence and civic-mindedness of Flanders teen Shannon Merker, her drawing of the Big Duck was officially designated as the Flanders flag on Tuesday. Videojournalist: Jessica Rotkiewicz (May 14, 2013)

Long Island's Big Duck will fly high as the flag of the hamlet of Flanders, thanks to the persistence of a Southampton teen.

When Shannon Merker was 11, she wondered why her hometown of Flanders didn't have its own flag, like many other small communities.

Being a precocious fifth-grader -- her family had joked since she was in second grade that she would be Southampton Town supervisor one day -- she drew a mock-up of a proposed flag.


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She mailed the drawing and a letter to Southampton Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who had left some campaign pencils at her great-grandmother's house.

"I have noticed almost every hamlet has a flag," she wrote six years ago in pitching one for Flanders. "I thought it could look something like this?"

The rendering of the flag was the Big Duck on a tuft of grass, with a blue background. "Flanders," the proposed flag said succinctly. " 'Home of the Big Duck.' "

Tuesday, Merker's revamped, more polished flag was adopted by the Southampton Town Board.

Now, the Big Duck is on a river, flanked by reeds, and there's a mention of its founding, in 1648. It's now the hamlet's official flag.

Merker, now 17, and her family were on hand. "I'm definitely happy it'll finally be able to fly," said the Bishop McGann-Mercy High School junior. "It's a great way to represent the Flanders community. It's a piece of who we are."

The flag will be raised at a ceremony next month at Flanders Memorial Park, a short jog from the Big Duck.

Shannon and her mother, Lisa Merker, are caretakers of the small park. The flag also will be flown outside the David W. Crohan Community Center, named after her grandfather.

"I was really impressed with her civic activism, her persistence," Nuzzi said.

Nuzzi said he wanted community buy-in for the flag, so he asked her to take it around to Flanders civic groups. Merker started in January, listened to suggestions and made some adjustments, such as including water and the date the hamlet was established.

Nuzzi said the delay in getting the flag approved was about "talking to the community and getting an appropriate rendering."

At Tuesday's meeting, he added, "Being this is government, it takes quite awhile," and praised Merker's perseverance.

"There's a great ending to all this," he said.

"It's a great chance for us to have a hamlet identity," said Richard Naso, chair of the Flanders Citizens Advisory Committee.

Merker said she's not sure why there was a delay -- she said she thought the flag was "put on the back burner" -- but said it has stoked her interest in government.

Merker, whose great-grandmother Ida Crohan is well known in civic circles, was politic with her answers.

The delay, she said, "is not that important to me. It didn't ruin it forever. It just ruined it for that amount of time. The important thing is it's happening.

"I learned I definitely have a deeper interest in town politics."

And that joke about running for town supervisor one day?

"Now, I'm really thinking about it," she said.

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