Flying the Minnesota flag may be easier than folding it. With its blue field and the state seal superimposed in the middle, Minnesota's flag was adopted in 1893, but there is no standard about how it should be folded, particularly to fit it into triangular cases often used for display. A bill in the Legislature would formalize how the state flag is folded.
Members of the Minnesota National Guard made the discovery after returning from a deployment in Iraq with a state flag presented to them by Gov. Tim Pawlenty before they left. They did not know the proper way to fold it to present it back to Pawlenty. Turns out that many groups have had the same question, from VFWs and American Legions to honor guards at funerals and various scout groups.
Minnesota Guard Command Sgt. Major Scott Mills and others spent several days folding and refolding the flag to find the best way to display it properly.
"Anytime we honor folks with the state flag, there is nothing in the state statues that prescribed how it should be done," Mills said. "That was a continuous question brought to us. We all of a sudden thought that our state flag deserves the same kind of significance as the federal flag."
About half of the states have instructions or state laws about how to fold their flags, Mills said. An Eagle Scout came up with Ohio's method, made more complicated by the fact the flag is actually burgee- or banner-shaped, with a swallow tail. Texas enacted a law last year requiring that a portion of its flag's blue stripe and white star be visible when folded. It is called the Rod Welsch Act, in honor of the longtime sergeant-at-arms of the Texas House of Representatives, who is credited with developing the folding method.
Some might find the language detailed to the point of confusion in the Minnesota bill, which has moved through both the House and Senate in larger bills.
The proposed law would require the flag to be folded four times lengthwise to display three stars on the state crest and the state motto, "L'Etoile du Nord" -- the star of the North. Sides need to be folded at 90-degree angles from the center so that the display section forms a triangle. There are instructions for folding other protruding sections at 45-degree angles and folding mirror sections in half from the point upward and tucking them under the display sections.
In a classic military move, the Guard has developed a diagram to assist those interested in attempting to fold the flag.
"We just looked at the flag and said, 'Here's what we think it should look like' and then we proceeded with figuring out how to make it get to that point," Mills said.
There has been tepid opposition to the measure. During a floor vote, Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, said he decided against authoring an amendment to cut the provision out of the larger bill.
"I still don't understand why we need a state law telling us how to fold the flag," he said. During a Senate vote, a bill containing the flag provision passed despite 14 votes against it. There was no debate, but it's likely the naysayers had no issues with codifying flag folding and simply opposed other parts of the bill.
Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, a sponsor of the flag bill, said he could not fold the flag with the instructions in his own legislation.
"I'm going to have to do my homework," he admitted.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434