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A Salute to Red Flannel Underwear
Few cities would admit their claim to fame is underwear, and they probably wouldn’t hang the flashy colored garments from the city’s lamp posts. But to the residents of Cedar Springs, there is only one kind of underwear and the scarlet drop seats are proudly displayed on the city’s lamp posts for all the world to see.
“Red flannels are our heritage, our history. It’s who we are,” says Mayor Linda Hunt, who served as director of the Red Flannel Festival for many years. “People would miss the red flannels hanging from the lamp posts.”
The Two Skirts
Nina’s response was succinct: “Who but a New Yorker would conclude that all the world doesn’t because we don’t? Or who but a Gothamite would expect that there are no red flannels just because Saks Fifth Avenue, Wanamakers, Lord & Taylor, and Bergdorf Goodman don’t wrap ‘em up for their clients? Don’t write off us lumberjacks; we’ve got plenty of red flannels in Cedar Springs.”
Within days the Associated Press had picked up the story and orders began pouring into town with Cedar Springs merchants happily supplying the country with red flannels.
But once again, the two ladies proved the naysayers wrong and today the Red Flannel Festival is still going strong. This fall the city will observe its 70th Red Flannel Day celebration. The theme for this year’s festival is appropriately entitled “Soaring at 70...and beyond!”
20 years. The Red Flannel Factory has changed hands and locations several times since then. Today the red flannel garments are once again being manufactured in the home. Seamstress Pam Mauric took over the operation of the Red Flannel Factory in January 2007, and is the sole seamstress of red flannel apparel operating out of her Rockford, Michigan home.
Mauric spends five to eight hours a day at her sewing machine. “I sew all year long,” she explained. Her goal is to finish eight to 12 garments a day. Since the Red Flannel Factory is no longer a Cedar Springs owned and operated business, Mauric offers her red flannel garments for sale locally as well as running an online business at www.redflannels.com.
When tourists come to Cedar Springs on Red Flannel Day, held each year on the first Saturday in October, Mauric is there to offer her red flannel apparel. She opens up her “store” in a booth at the annual arts and craft show. “People are so excited to see the red flannels,” she said. “Lots and lots of people come to town specifically looking for red flannels.”
Red Flannel Day is a “big day,” for her, she explained. When she runs out of clothing, she takes orders and ships out the garments the following week. The town’s legacy—the drop seat long johns—are her biggest seller.
Another business that promotes red flannel apparel is Flaunt It Sportswear. Co-owners Karen Fudhoff and Lea Dillard have supplied red flannel t-shirts for the festival for years. Red Flannel Day “brings a lot of people to town,” Fudhoff said. “They are looking for anything red, as well as umbrellas if it’s raining or blankets if it’s cold.” The company screen prints 500 t-shirts with the festival’s logo for the Red Flannel Festival to sell, and then produces another 100 generic t-shirts they offer for sale in their Main Street shop on Red Flannel Day.
Big Business to a Small Town
The Red Flannel Festival is put together by a seven-member festival committee. All are volunteers. “We’ve had 70 years of people putting this festival together with no paid staff,” Andres said. “Most of us work full-time and pulling this together is a lot of hard work. You step in and do your part and carry it along to pass it off to someone who can do something else with it.”
In 2002, the festival’s operating budget was $41,000. This year’s budget is $75,630. They have added 16 new events in the last seven years. Among them are a professional lumberjack show, a teen dance, a grand lodge, photography contest, mule pull, wine tasting, horseshoe throwing, and judgment day pullers.
Money Stays in the Community
The Cedar Springs community has stressed the importance of education by supporting the festival’s efforts to improve the Red Flannel Queen’s Scholarship. Donations to the annual scholarship drive have allowed the festival committee to double the yearly scholarship dollars awarded the queen and court from $3,000 to $6,000. One hundred percent of the donated monies are used toward the scholarship. The money is invested annually and the committee has set a goal of awarding a four-year tuition for the queen by 2010.
The festival now has a place to call home. For all the years it has been in existence, it rented space to run its operation. In 2006, the festival committee purchased the building at 21 E. Maple St. in downtown Cedar Springs and started a capital campaign to pay off the mortgage. It rents the front portion of the building to help offset expenses and was awarded a Downtown Development Façade Improvement Grant by the city for improvements to the building’s façade. “This was a dream,” Andres explained. “What does it say to the community if we are renting after 60 years? This building is a formal statement about the festival’s presence in Cedar Springs.”
The city of Cedar Springs fully supports the Red Flannel Festival through donations of time and labor supplied by the department of public works for setup and clean-up before and after the festival, as well as supplying police officers for crowd control. It also promotes the festival on Facebook, “We Celebrate Underwear” www.facebook.com. “It’s our way of connecting to the millennial generation and keeping them informed on the happenings in Cedar Springs,” said City Manager Christine Burns who started the page that now boasts over 400 members. “Any time there is something happening, I can write one email and get the word out to over 400 people. It’s a great advertising tool.”
Each of the past seven years Andres has placed flowers on the graves of the Clipper Girls in the weeks before the festival. “The first year, I just asked them to help me get through it,” she said with a smile. “It hasn’t rained or snowed in seven years. Some of the things we do with the festival we do with them in mind. Seventy years later, I like to think they would be proud of us.”
For more information, please visit the Red Flannel Festival website at
Linda Branyan is the clerk for the city of Cedar Springs. She may be reached at 616-696-1330 x 103