Utah unveils 20 semifinalists for new state flag
SALT LAKE CITY — The quest for a new Utah state flag is moving forward after state officials narrowed down over 7,000 submissions to 20 semifinalists.
Utah Flag Finalist Sneak Peak: 19 glorious flags! Each design is inspired by a Utahn (or many) and represents hours of collaboration and volunteer design work. They are rich with meaning and share a strong connection to Utah.
— Daniel McCay (@danmccay) September 7, 2022
“Each design is inspired by a Utahn (or many) and represents hours of collaboration and volunteer design work. They are rich with meaning and share a strong connection to Utah,” McCay said.
“The new flag will be one that people can point to and say: ‘I was part of the evolution of that flag,’” said Rep. Elizabeth Weight of the Utah Flag Task Force.
Semifinalist flag designs will be unveiled in a press event and exhibition at the Utah Capitol on Sept. 22 with flag exhibitions installed in Cedar City and Logan.
“What we have here, in the 20, in many cases, is a combination of ideas,” Jill Love, executive director of the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, and a member of the task force, told KSL.com. “We tried to get the public in these (20 designs) — the best of the best that represent the significant symbols that we heard were important to Utah. And that includes colors, too.”
After the public comment period ends in October, the design review committee will narrow the field again to four to six finalists.
From there, the flag task force will present a finalist or two to Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Diedre Henderson, who will present their choice to the Utah Legislature in a special session.
The process is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Utah state flag history
Utah’s original flag was created in 1903 to be used at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Utah Gov. Heber M. Wells asked the Daughters of the American Revolution to oversee its creation.
A gold seal was added and the seal was colorized in 1912, and the Utah Legislature officially adopted the changes in 1913.
Technically, Utah’s current state flag was officially adopted in 2011 after an error was introduced in 1922 and went unnoticed for 89 years.
In 2011, John Hartvigsen, a vexillologist or flag expert, said, “The 1847 was moved from its correct position right below the word Utah on the shield, to a place below the shield. That has been followed by flag manufacturers ever since, even though it’s incorrect.”
A joint resolution fixed the error, moving it back to its correct spot on the shield, which was also colorized. Minor changes to the bald eagle and sego lilies were also made.
A common question that has been presented to the task force so far: Why now?
The task force has a section of its website dedicated to the question, which says task force members “believe that designing a new state flag offers Utahns the chance to talk about who we are now. It’s a chance to talk about bigger questions that get to the heart of our identity now, while still honoring and building upon our history.
Governor Cox wants today to be “More Than a Flag Day” – asking for input on a new state flag. I actually LOVE the commemorative flag with the Beehive and the split red, white and blue colors. Great symbolism and marketable for apparel, stickers etc. Thoughts? @KSL5TV #KSLTV pic.twitter.com/OqN9NfiMWF
— Dan Spindle KSL (@DanSpindleKSL) January 19, 2022
“A new flag can draw upon our history and be a symbol in a bigger initiative to think about what unites us. A new flag could be one step in helping all of us, together, face our pressing issues.”
State leaders have also said the flag should have a simplified design that is more iconic — much like flags in neighboring Colorado and New Mexico.
“Utah is a very distinctive state, but our current flag blends in with many other state flags. We can do better,” McCay said. “The new state flag can be simplified with a design that is both innovative and memorable.”
Gov. Cox has previously referred to the current state flag as an “S.O.B.” or “seal on a bedsheet” — a joke term from the vexillology community for a flag that uses a solid color (most commonly blue) background and the official seal or coat of arms of whatever it is representing as the main feature.
A survey of Utah residents said nearly half are proud of the current flag, but only one-third would wear the flag on clothing or as an accessory.
In the survey, 36% indicated they would support a redesign while 35% wouldn’t. The remaining 29% said they neither support nor oppose a change.
Once a new state flag is chosen, officials said the current state flag will become the governor’s flag and will still be flown publicly. The state seal, which is displayed on the current state flag, will also remain in place.
“This is not an effort, at all, to take away our history,” Handy said. “This is an effort to modernize a symbol of our great state.”
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