Will Rochester council support a new flag?

September 23, 2018
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“Past, Present and Future” by Matt Levar, of Rochester, N.Y.

Eighteen months after announcing their plans, members of the volunteer-driven Rochester Flag Project are set to make their pitch to the Rochester City Council on Monday.

With alternative designs in hand, Anastasia Hopkins Folpe said the group plans to seek council support for replacing the current city flag, which has been in place since 1980.

“It would be a great thing for Rochester to have a strong flag design,” she said.

The Rochester Flag Project sorted through a total of 159 entries, putting them all through a public voting process, while also establishing a selection committee to choose a flag design based on specific criteria.

The criteria used by the committee included looking for a simple design with meaningful symbolism and something that would be distinctive and easy to recognize, with a limited number of colors and no lettering.

Two designs rose to the top after months of effort — one picked in a public vote and one picked by the selection committee.

The top online vote winner is a design called the “Hope, Support, Love” flag by Joe Uessem, of Dusseldorf, Germany. Uessem wrote in his statement to the committee that the experience of his girlfriend’s family starting over in Rochester after a house fire inspired his design.

“The support that her family got from the good citizens of Rochester gave her strength to not lose hope. Hope, Support, Love: this is what the city of Rochester stands for, and what I want to show in my flag design,” he wrote.

“The white goose not only stands out on the darker background, it also flies towards freedom which the viewer expects out of the flag’s boundaries,” he wrote. “Geese and Rochester have a special connection, and whenever I see a Canada goose, I think of the city.”

The judges on the committee chose a design by Matt Levar, of Rochester, N.Y., called “Past, Present and Future.”

“Here, a gold ring encompasses the city, symbolizing the community’s unity and values. Inside, three stars, one for the city’s founding, one for the great tornado and the medical community that came from it, and the highest one for the city’s future. The stars shine in a night sky over the city’s South Fork Zumbro and Bear Creek Rivers,” wrote the designer in his statement about the flag.

Levar’s design will be the focus of the Rochester Flag Project’s presentation, according to Lee Herold, owner of Herold’s Flags and one of the project’s organizers. He said several flag options will be presented, but project organizers believe the proposed design will be the most successful for now and in the future.

Potential designs will be put up against the existing flag, which was designed by Laurie A. Muir, a former Mayo High School graduate, during a similar design contest in 1980.

For the last 37 years, the flag has been used to varying extent, even flying over Kuwait in 2012. Today, it is still used but not flown as often as some residents would like, and they believe it is largely because of the design.

Herold has said he hopes a redesign will lead to greater use of the city flag, noting the current flag lacks simplicity found in popular flags, such as Chicago and Washington city flags, which are better suited for flying from outdoor flagpoles, as well as hanging down when displayed indoors or without wind.

The final decision on whether to replace the flag will be made by the city council. While members agreed last year to consider any proposal brought by the Rochester Flag Project, individual council members have voiced varying levels of support for the effort.

The flag project presentation is slated between a discussion of the latest plans for Destination Medical Center’s Heart of the City subdistrict and proposals for use of 2019 Community Development Block Grant funds.

The discussions will be part of the 3:30 p.m. committee of the whole meeting Monday in room 104 of City Hall.

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