By Dustin Wlodkowski
Click the link below to be taken to NBC Boston 10 to watch the interview. https://www.nbcboston.com/on-air/as-seen-on/River-of-Pride-Flag_NECN-510931612.html
A Maine man will be responsible for a big part of Boston’s Pride Parade — 900 feet of it to be exact.
That’s the length of the “River of Pride” flag, sewn together by Bishop McKechnie of Augusta.
For more than 10 weeks, McKechnie has been busy sewing, eight hours a day, to get the flag ready for Saturday.
“It’s a labor of love, we’ll just say that,” McKechnie explained.
He first had the idea to make an extremely large flag 13 years ago when customers at Blackstone’s, a well-known Portland bar, asked if they could be on the bar’s pride parade float.
“The clientele would come in and ask to be on the float,” he said. “It dawned on me [to] come up with something that would make the parade longer.”
That’s how, with limited sewing experience and support from his husband, David Hopkins, McKechnie created his first River of Pride flag with a length of 700 feet.
“This was my solution for people who felt unseen or unheard,” he explained.
As McKechnie put it, for the first time, anyone who didn’t belong to an organization or group with a float in the Portland Pride Parade could now belong to a new open-door group with no bar to entry.
A few uses later, the giant rainbow banner became 900 feet long and was used over and over in the Portland Pride Parade until 2017.
After a one-year hiatus, a friend put McKechnie in contact with Boston Pride.
The Massachusetts group jumped at the opportunity to use the flag made of a special shiny silk fabric, which McKechnie says has the price tag of “a nice car,” altogether.
A 200-foot Unity Flag will also make its way to Boston.
The separate flag sewn by McKechnie is meant to include people who don’t feel represented by the rainbow, like individuals who are non-binary.
“Some may feel they’re such a small sect inside the rainbow,” said McKechnie. “I created a brand new flag for those people.”
The Unity Flag uses all different kinds of swatches sews into one flag and has a multi-colored infinity symbol at its center.
It also has room for new colors to be added by anyone who feels they need a color not in the flag to be represented.
Having one of his epic flags in the Boston Pride Parade has been a dream of Bishop’s since the inception of his project that Hopkins said resulted in at least one “intense” needle accident.
But McKechnie, the one who actually had a needle go through his thumb, has never held one of his flags in a parade before.
That will change on Saturday.
“I’ll be marching in Boston. It’ll be my first time picking up the flag,” said McKechnie, who eschewed any type of title like “artist” or “creator,” saying it distracts from the togetherness he’s trying to foster.
“The flag doesn’t get its way down the parade route,” he said. “You make that happen.”
To clarify a few details from this news story:
The first 125 feet was sewn by Bishop and friends in 2006 along with 2007 to 2008 the addition 775 feet was added. The next 750 feet was sewn by Bishop alone in 2019. The 10 weeks included the 750 feet of The River of Pride Flag and 200 feet of The Unity Pride Flag.