Ever since Six Flags opened in 1961, the six flags that have flown over Texas have been a staple of the park.
As of Friday morning, the five flags other than the United States flag — representing Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the Confederacy — are being left to the history books.
The park received criticism following last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., from TMZ, Fox News and others for flying the Confederate states flag. As a result, Six Flags Over Texas decided to take down all but the U.S. flag.
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“We always choose to focus on celebrating the things that unite us versus those that divide us,” said Six Flags spokeswoman Sharon Parker. “As such, we have changed the flag displays in our parks to feature American flags.”
Since its inception, Six Flags played upon Texas history as a major theme. But that has been downplayed in recent years as the park expanded and renovated.
“When Six Flags Over Texas was being planned during the Eisenhower administration, the founders settled on six themed areas and decided to use the historic fact of the flags of six nations that had flown over Texas as the basis of the themed areas,” Parker said. “Since that time, the park has moved on to incorporate many other themes. The Six Flags represent our brand across the world; no longer the themed areas of a park that opened in 1961.”
Saturday marked the first day of Six Flags Over Texas' 2017 season. The park is awaiting the opening of its highly anticipated new roller coaster The Joker, which is scheduled to open some time this spring.
The section of the park that was once themed “The Confederacy” and featured Civil War re-enactments was renamed in the mid-1990s to “The Old South.”
The park was dreamed up by Angus Wynne Jr. On Friday, his two sons, Angus Wynne III and Shannon Wynne, had very different reactions to the news of the five flags being taken down. The family hasn’t been involved in the park for decades.
“It’s a wake-up call for anyone who is truly concerned about the current state of affairs and I’m sure the founders would have wanted it this way,” said Angus Wynne III. “I grew up in the park and of course it was a marvelous idea to incorporate Texas history, but I would rather this happen than it be a divisive situation.”
However, Shannon Wynne, who created the Flying Saucer, Bird Cafe and Rodeo Goat with his son, Sam, was upset about the decision.
“It’s absolutely the wrong message to send and I’m rather shocked by it,” Shannon Wynne said. “What does France have to do with it? What does Spain have to do with it? What does Mexico have to do with it and what does the Republic of Texas have to do with it?”
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Shannon Wynne said he had told Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings that the Confederate statues, which that city is deciding whether to keep, should be used for educational purposes rather than being torn down.
“If we were allowed to revise the plaque at Lee Park (in Dallas) to reveal what this man stood for — that he was a great tactician, however, he led the Confederacy whose idealogy condoned slavery. Use it as a tool.
“Lowering five of the six flags is an absolute overreach and pretty sad effort to assuage whatever outcry there is,” Shannon Wynne said. “The fact is the Confederacy did exist and Texas was a part of it.”
While Six Flags Entertainment operates 20 theme parks in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, only the Arlington park, Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio and Six Flags Over Georgia flew all six flags. Those parks will now only fly the American flag as well.
It isn’t Arlington’s first brush with Confederate symbols. The University of Texas at Arlington, known then as Arlington State College, changed its mascot from the Blue Riders to Rebels in 1951 and proudly flew the Confederate battle flag on its campus, according to Star-Telegram archives. The mascots were named Johnny Rebel and Miss Dixie Belle for homecoming.
“Dixie became the unofficial fight song,” said Gerald Saxon, a history professor at the school, in a 2015 Star-Telegram article. “The whole issue of the Confederacy was ingrained in the school.”
The college integrated in 1962 and stopped using the flag in 1968. In 1971, the UT System board of regents ordered that the Johnny Rebel mascot had to go.