Saskatchewan flag designer returning for 50th anniversary celebration
The designer of the Saskatchewan flag will be visiting the province in July to attend a number of 50th anniversary events that are arranged by Hodgeville resident Gail Hapanowicz.
Anthony Drake and his wife Joan will be arriving from England on July 3, and they will be hosted by Hapanowicz until July 22.
Drake was a 27-year-old high school teacher in Hodgevillle in 1969 when a flag selection committee picked his design from 4,025 entries. Due to circumstances he returned to his native England before the official unveiling of the new provincial flag during that year.
He saw the raising of this flag for the first time in 2016 during a 21-day visit to the province that was also arranged by Hapanowicz.
She and husband Mirek own the Hodgeville Skool Inn & Hub, the former high school where Drake was a teacher 50 years ago.
She has become passionate about promoting the Saskatchewan flag after learning more about its history and the flag’s connection to Hodgeville.
“There’s not a lot of flags in Canada that were designed by just regular people, and there’s only two that ever had a contest,” she said. “One was 250 entries, which was Nunavut, and then ours.”
She is excited to host Drake for a second time during the flag’s 50th anniversary year, and she wanted to do something different for this visit.
Drake visited numerous communities around southwest Saskatchewan in 2016, where he spoke about the flag and met with people. He also had meetings with Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield and Premier Brad Wall during a trip to Regina.
For this trip Hapanowicz decided to contact a provincial icon, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and as a result Drake will be a VIP guest at the team’s July 6 game against the Calgary Stampeders.
“They’re going to put the flag on the jumbotron and then they’re going to talk about him, and then they’re going to pan over to where we’re sitting,” Hapanowicz said. “So we’re going to do that in front of 33,000 people.”
Drake will also be a special guest at the Canadian Forces Snowbirds air show in Moose Jaw on July 7. The Bentley retirement residence in Swift Current will host Drake on July 11, which will include a brunch with residents and a formal program and lunch. He will be a dignitary at the Shaunavon Boomtown Days and Stampede, where he will participate in the parade.
He will be meeting the mayors of Moose Jaw and Swift Current, and Hapanowicz is also arranging a meeting with Regina’s Josh Miller, better known as the Bearded Prairie Chef, who placed third on the Master Chef Canada show.
She is still arranging a date for a meeting with Premier Scott Moe and there will be a tea hosted by Lieutenant Governor Thomas Molloy. Hapanowicz is hoping that Percy Schmeiser, the only surviving member of the flag committee that selected Drake’s design as the new provincial flag, will be able to attend the tea. It will be a historic moment, because it will be the first time the two men will meet.
Hapanowicz was able to track down Schmeiser after she looked at an old newspaper clipping that Drake has saved since 1969. It shows the members of the flag selection committee around a large table during their first meeting and she started a research process to find any surviving members of the group.
“This is a piece of history, when you can have the only living person who chose the design and the person who designed the flag,” she said. “That’s amazing. So it’s pretty exciting.”
Hapanowicz is still hoping that Drake will receive official recognition in his home country for designing the Saskatchewan flag. In October 2018 she wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II to request an official honour for Drake.
“I wanted her to recognize him in any way that she feels fit to honour Anthony Drake, her constituent, for designing a flag for a Commonwealth country’s province,” she said.
She was excited to receive an official response from Buckingham Place in March, in which she is thanked for her letter and her efforts to pay tribute to Drake.
“Her Majesty was most touched to know of the efforts you have taken to find Mr. Drake and embrace his achievement again after all these years, and thought it kind of you to wish to share this remarkable story with her,” the Royal letter stated.
Hapanowicz continues with other efforts to promote the Saskatchewan flag. She will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Saskatchewan flag with a time capsule that will be opened in 2029.
She started the Stand behind the Flag initiative when Drake was here in 2016. She is trying to take as many photos as possible of people standing with the flag. She is also asking people to take their own photos and to share their images on her Facebook page Home of the Saskatchewan Flag Foundation (@ Saskatchewanflag).
Above left: Gail Hapanowicz has framed the official letter written to her from Buckingham Palace. Above right: Gail Hapanowicz speaks about the upcoming visit of the Saskatchewan flag designer, Anthony Drake, at Tourism Swift Current's 9th annual 49° x 110° Spring Conference, May 3.