After almost 60 years of flying what has been called one of the worst city flags in America, the city of Cedar Rapids unveiled its new banner on Saturday. The design of the new flag was one of four options the public was asked to vote on this summer.
“This flag is meant to be a symbol of pride for the community,” Cedar Rapids City Councilmember Ashley Vanorny said at a ceremony introducing the new flag at the Cedar Rapids Public Library on Saturday.
Vanorny led the push for a new city flag beginning in 2019, after she became aware that the decades-old Cedar Rapids flag had been named the second worst city flag in America during a 2015 TED Talk on vexillology, the study of flags. (The city with the worst flag, according to that talk, Pocatello, Idaho, replaced its flag in 2017).
The Cedar Rapids flag had ranked high on lists of badly designed flags for much of the last 20 years.
That flag had been selected in 1962, following a design contest for students at the city’s four high schools. The winning design was by Fred Easker, then a senior at Jefferson High School, taking his first art class. His teacher had picked him to design the school’s entry in the contest.
“At some point the teacher told me about the competition,” Easker told KGAN in 2019, when the city started soliciting ideas for a new flag. “He basically selected me to participate.”
Easker, who went on to have a successful career as an artist, was supportive of the city replacing the flag he designed as a 17-year-old. He knew about the flag’s unpopularity with critics, but it didn’t bother him.
“I’m really amused,” Easker said. “Of course it’s not the greatest design. I had minimal artistic training, just a high school class.”
While the old flag attempted to literally depict aspects of the city’s past, present and future, the new design, called “History and Progress,” attempts to do the same symbolically. This is the description the city offered of it, as people voted on the final four contenders.
The blue water of the Cedar River courses through Cedar Rapids, splitting at iconic May’s Island. The green field represents the wonderful green space and recreational areas of our city, while the white represents the city’s homes, businesses and infrastructure, including long-term flood protection, which both interacts with and protects the community from the river. The star represents the historic structures built on Mays Island, with five points to illustrate the City of Five Seasons.
After the initial round of public input in 2019, local graphic designers began working on designs, which were reviewed by the North American Vexillological Association. The final four designs were submitted to the public for comments and votes in July.
The process took longer than expected due to delays caused by COVID-19 and the derecho. Much of the work of creating the new flag was done on a volunteer basis. According to the city, the entire process cost “$687.73 for public engagement materials.”