Corona del Mar Today: Flag 'family' decorates for Fourth of July

A group of volunteers cruised Corona del Mar early on the Fourth of July, installing about 120 flags along East Coast Highway to celebrate Independence Day.

"God bless America," Ray Kilz of Balboa Island said while he jogged in a fine mist to install another flag.

The tradition began years ago; the volunteers don't remember exactly when. The group gathers about 6 a.m. seven times a year on patriotic holidays and Sept. 11. They divide into teams, trying to beat their records for installing the flags quickly.

On Wednesday, after about 40 minutes, the group gathered at Pain Du Monde for their traditional coffee break.

"This is family here," said volunteer Vaughn Barnes of Corona del Mar.

Barnes said he was thinking about his son, Andrew Barnes, as he installed the flags. His son is aU.S. Armymedic in Afghanistan.

"I was Skyping him Friday, and I head mortars," Barnes said. "He said he had to go, had to get into a bunker … "

Other volunteers said they were veterans, and others said they loved the United States and freedom.

"I'm a patriot," said Tom Boris of Newport Coast.

"It's an honor," said CdM resident Jacqueline Wittmeyer, who organizes the flag installations. "Everyone who is here wants to be here because it's an honor to them."

Wittmeyer said new flags are always needed, and donors who contribute $100 will receive a certificate from U.S. Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine).

"Some people make the donation in honor of a new baby or for a birthday," she said.

She also said volunteers are always needed, particularly for removing the flags late in the afternoon. Anyone who is interested is asked to call her at (949) 338-9393.

Other volunteers on the Fourth were David Riley, Tiana Roman, Jim Digrado, Mike Lesher, Steve Jelnick, Giana Giannulli, Vance Gay and Jeff Adamek.

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Little feedback for traffic study

Changes in traffic lanes on East Coast Highway between Avocado and Carnation avenues went into place recently, but so far the study has generated little feedback from the public, city officials said.

"As of 10 o'clock last night, I had heard one comment, and it was favorable," Mayor Nancy Gardner told members of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District on June 28. "I expect to come back to a box full."

On Monday, however, Gardner said she still hadn't heard much. One person who had contacted her was concerned about parking spaces that have been removed, but Gardner told her that the spaces would be replaced if the project moves forward. A third person said he didn't like the project's aesthetics, which would be improved if it changes were to be permanent.

Garen Yegenian, owner of Korker Liquor store, has a front-line view of the new merge location, which is in front of his shop at 2229 E. Coast Hwy. He said several of his customers have complained about the project, and one man said it contributed to a minor traffic collision.