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Grassroots effort emerges to redesign Rochester's city flag

Grassroots effort emerges to redesign Rochester's city flag

Has the time come to update Rochester's city flag?

That's what a group of local volunteers think. They're working on an initiative to open a citywide design contest to find a new symbol for the Med City.

"If you pulled the average person on the street today, they might not even know we have a city flag, or they might just have a passing knowledge of it," said Anastasia Hopkins Folpe, a volunteer working on the project.

The existing Rochester flag was introduced in 1980 following a design competition, in which 200 proposals were considered. According to historical archives, the chosen flag was designed by Laurie A. Muir, who at the time was an art student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

The design of the flag was based, in part, off the original State of Minnesota flag. In addition, it uses prominent local symbols, such as the Plummer and Mayo Buildings, as well as three flying Canadian Geese. The computer-style font used for lettering was chosen to represent a once-dominance force in town, IBM.

But criticism of the design has been bubbling up for years — with the most notable attention to the issue coming in 2015 when the technology website Gizmodo named it one of the "Ugliest Flags on Earth.”


Lee Herold, of Herold's Flags in Rochester, has been one of the most notable critics of the flag. As perhaps the city's leading flag aficionado, Herold argues that Rochester deserves an emblem that is not only recognizable, but one that people here can relate to.

"Flags have a function, which is to unite people, first of all, and to be festive and bring people together," Herold told us.

An introductory presentation and workshop (event details) will be held at the Rochester Art Center on February 23 for anyone interested in learning more about how to get involved with the project.

Organizers plan to hold multiple rounds for submissions before settling on a final design by early 2018. They hope to engage local artists and students throughout the process. A formal presentation on the initiative will likely be made to the city council in the coming months.

"At the end, there will either be a clear winner or at least clear elements of a winner than can then be combined,” said Holpe.

While organizers could point to certain criteria as to what makes a good design, they emphasized the most significant attribute is that it is created locally.

"There have been a lot of flags designed around the country from contests,” said Herold, noting that outside firms, with their lack of experience in the community, tend not to produce the best results. “Citizens from a community can come up with their own flag and do a good job of it."

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(Cover graphic: Rochester, MN Flag)

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