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Issue date: December 06, 2000

It's been a banner year: Homeowners love to fly the flag, especially during the holidays It's been a banner year: Homeowners love to fly the flag, especially during the holidays (December 06, 2000)

By Jane Knoerle

Almanac Lifestyles Editor

Bill Russ changes his every day. Judy Sheldon has 10,000 of them. Carolyn Grant's favorite has pumpkins on it.

We're talking about banners, which grace more and more homes around here. Holiday banners herald the seasons, recognize family happenings, or just reflect the mood of the owner.

Carolyn Grant of Menlo Park isn't sure how many banners she has, but thinks "it's probably 30." She rotates the banners frequently, according to the season. If it's raining, she displays a Noah's Ark or a flag bearing an umbrella.

"The neighbor kids like to look at them on the way to school," she says.

Mrs. Grant has been collecting flags for more than five years.

"My daughter, Jenny Sorensen, gave me my first one. She's very artsy-craftsy."

Where does she find her banners? "I buy them anywhere I see them: Roger Reynolds Nursery, Target, or the flag shop in San Carlos."

10,000 flags

Judy's Flag Shop, in business six years, first opened in San Carlos, but is now located at 1340 El Camino Real in Belmont. Judy Shelden estimates she carries about 10,000 flags, ranging in price from $21 to $120 for custom banners bearing addresses or special messages.

"I carry three brands, all made in the U.S.A.," says Mrs. Sheldon.

Double-sided banners are especially popular.

"Last year I did a lot of business with religious banners, because I'm one of the very few places that carries them," she says. "This year the hottest item is snowmen."

For all seasons

Bill and Sally Russ of Menlo Park display a different flag every day, rotating 67 banners, according to the season.

"Right now I'm doing all the fall ones, about 10 or 11 of them," Mr. Russ says. "In the middle of December I will put out one of my five or six Christmas banners each day."

Bill Russ got into banners after admiring those put up by his neighbor, Rolf, who then introduced him to Judy's Flag Shop.

Each season's series of flags is now stored in a hall closet with out-of-season flags wrapped in bundles in another storage area.

"I'm always on the lookout for something new," says Mr. Russ, who also puts up an elaborate Nativity scene in his front yard during December.

Pilgrims and pumpkins

Lela Blankenberg, her husband Francis, and three young children live in a picture-pretty house on Avy Avenue in Menlo Park, complete with front porch and picket fence.

A crafts person, Mrs. Blankenberg enjoys decorating her front porch with a theme for every season, and always flies a banner. Last week, it was pilgrims, with ceramic geese and pumpkins in pilgrim costumes. This week, 5-foot gingerbread men will be in place on the front porch, along with a myriad of other goodies.

Those pilgrim geese won't be dressed for Christmas; there just isn't room for them. But in every other season, they steal the show. Consider geese wearing pinafores appliqued with hearts for Valentine's Day; or dressed in jaunty green outfits for St. Patrick's Day.

Mrs. Blankenberg makes all the geese costumes, and even fashions St. Raymond's Catholic School uniforms for them -- like her daughter Katie wears in the first grade.

Each year she outfits a goose in a St. Raymond's uniform (using worn-out uniforms) for the school's annual auction fundraiser.

"A lot of people stop by (to admire the front porch), especially at Halloween," says Mrs. Blankenberg. "Families bring their children."

For all reasons

Marilyn and Rob Caine of West Menlo Park have been displaying banners since the first one -- "It's a girl! -- announced the birth of their daughter, Lindsey, 10.

"My mom always had banners," says Mrs. Caine, who estimates she now owns about 100.

"The kids love them," she says of Lindsey, Nicholas and Andrew.

Besides the seasonal banners, she has flags for "back to school" and the start of the soccer season. She has birthday flags with each child's name snapped to the bottom. The latest flag announces the family's new black Labrador puppy.

"My dad (Dr. Ed Katz) surprised us with that one," says Mrs. Caine.

"We always fly a flag. Everybody always knows what's going on at our house."


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