After the county's smallest town made the biggest star-spangled statement, the trophy for the mayors' tie competition will spend a year in Yacolt.
Jeff Carothers earned the nod with some supersized neckwear Friday in the fourth annual Clark County mayors' patriotic tie contest during Flag Day at Fort Vancouver.
A newcomer facing a field of tie-contest veterans, Carothers said he did some scouting by watching video of the 2012 event.
"We need to go big because we're a small town," Carothers decided.
He credited Yacolt-area resident Sheri Wilson with creating the handmade tie, which features the town's name and an image of bursting fireworks, a plug for Yacolt's July 4 display.
It was a tough competition, considering how several entrants tried to work the judges — a panel of fifth-grade students from Vancouver's Marshall Elementary and Evergreen's Sunset Elementary.
Vancouver's Tim Leavitt showed up with more of the gift bags that helped him win last year's title. Woodland's Grover Laseke passed out cupcakes. And Scott Higgins of Camas was escorted by daughter Chloe, a student at Grass Valley Elementary, in a pitch for some fifth-grade solidarity.
In the final analysis, bribery wasn't a factor, although "The treats are good," confirmed Sunset's Anika Perry.
It came down to how Carothers' tie "was about the spirit of the contest," said classmate Jason Beltran-Hernandez.
Which was the effect he was going for, said Carothers, who spent 21 years in the Marines.
"It's not about a tie competition," the Yacolt mayor said during the event at the Parade Ground bandstand along Officers Row. "It's about what the flag stands for."
There was plenty of commentary about the meaning and history of the flag, as well as the Pledge of Allegiance.
As part of the national "Pause for the Pledge," held in conjunction with Flag Day, the group had a chance to recite those words again, led by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Gonce.
It was a chance to reflect on some of our nation's founding principles like liberty and justice, said Jordan Boldt, one of Friday's speakers.
Even if you've recited the pledge thousands of times, said Boldt, winner of the 2013 Marshall Public Leadership Award, "It's a simple reminder of who we are at our core."