The people behind the Rochester Flag Project would like you to know that they are not opposed to geese. As winged ambassadors for the southeastern Minnesota city, a flock of geese or a single goose might work, but Rochester is also home to tech companies, rivers, farms and a hospital that you may have heard of.
So an image of one of those things — or perhaps of geese, as the birds tend to flock in Rochester in unusually high numbers — could make up the winning design for the city’s new flag, said Anastasia Folpe, one of the Flag Project volunteers.
She and others are considering which symbol might best represent the city while overseeing a grass-roots campaign to design a new banner. Their efforts so far include the Rochester Flag Project website and assorted social media accounts, as well as a citywide contest that has drawn dozens of entries.
And while geese have figured prominently in many of the designs, dozens of other ideas show medical crosses, stripes, stars, rivers and the letter ‘R.’ The campaign hopes to choose a design by summer and present it to the City Council, which hasn’t made any promises but has so far encouraged the effort.
That’s been enough for Lee Herold, owner of the Rochester flag store known as Herold Flags and Flagpoles. Herold is also a longtime vexillologist, the name for a person who studies flags, and he’s long had the Rochester city flag in his sights.
“It’s dated,” he said of the 38-year-old blue flag stamped with a circular seal. The seal includes an image of the city skyline, including well-known Mayo Clinic buildings, and three geese flying overhead. The word “Rochester” and the abbreviation “Minn.” run around the seal’s edge. But it’s mostly the 1980s-style font that sets people off.
At the time the flag was designed by Rochester artist Laurie A. Muir, the font referred to the cutting edge work of IBM, a large local employer. The font no longer looks like the future, though, and even City Hall staffers have quietly tweaked it to look more generic on some versions of the seal in downtown offices.
Muir, contacted by the Rochester Post-Bulletin, said changing a flag because it’s dated doesn’t make sense. But the timing seemed right, said Herold, to remake the design with the launch of the Mayo Clinic’s massive 20-year, $5.6 billion expansion known as Destination Medical Center.
The project’s first call for entries drew 55 designs, and a second and final call drew another 119. A group of local judges educated in flag design will choose 12 finalists. The public can choose their favorites through April 22, at which time judges will make a final selection.
Folpe said she hopes the City Council will approve of the new flag and that it can be flown as early as RochesterFest in June. Herold said the winning look will likely adhere to design principles that call for simplicity, limited colors and the avoidance of words and letters, and be a finished product that pleases the public.
Several entries have included the Rod of Asclepius, a Greek symbol representing healing and medicine, while others have shown a similar symbol, the caduceus, that’s often associated with communication and commerce.
And, of course, geese.
“There are pro-goose and anti-geese people,” Folpe said. A lot of activities around town already use a goose or geese in their symbols, so it would make sense to have a goose on the city flag, she said.
“I’m not opposed to the goose,” she added. “It depends on how the goose is being used.”