Among the holiday-season throngs at the Mall of America this weekend, some visitors made special trips there not to shop, but to scope out the six designs that could become Minnesota's state flag.
The State Emblems Redesign Commission has winnowed down thousands of submissions to six finalists, after the Legislature voted to retire the current state flag and appointed the commission to come up with a new design by Jan. 1. Six mock-up flags hung in the mall rotunda on Saturday and Sunday to give Minnesotans a chance to see how a new flag will look in the real world, on fabric, flapping in the wind.
Even for those excited about the flag redesign — and there were plenty of people at the mall who did not want a new flag, and even more who were unaware the flag will change — the finalist designs felt a little alien. Some wondered if the largely abstract star and river designs sufficiently represent Minnesota and Minnesotaness.
"I don't recognize anything Minnesota-like," said Mike Haggenmiller, of St. Paul. Where's the loon, he asked? Where's the lady slipper?
Laura Wiesner, of Minneapolis, thought the simplicity of the final designs left plenty of room for interpretation, enough so everyone can feel part of the flag.
"It's tricky to think of what represents Minnesota for the range of people that all live in Minnesota," Wiesner said. She was partial to the design that superimposed a white snowflake on a golden-yellow star.
Not everyone liked the simple designs.
"They're a little plain, but it was time for an upgrade," said Ahna Girod, of New Hope.
Carole Doran, of Minneapolis, did not like the old flag, she said — she didn't like the way it celebrated a racist chapter of Minnesota history, and it was too busy. The proposals might have swung too far in the other direction, she said.
"They went from too busy to nada," Doran said.
Tim Hugley, of Newport, was skeptical of the commission's work so far.
"I know for a fact that they could have done better than these," Hugley said. None of the designs felt particularly Minnesotan to him. "It's not representing us."
Sawyer Olson, of St. Paul, was not keen on any of the final designs either. None of his favorite flag submissions made it to the final round, and he wondered if the commission had been too inflexible.
"The committee kind of hamstrung itself with how rigid the rules were," he said. "They didn't allow themselves to think outside the box."
The flag finalists all shared a color scheme of blue, white, green and yellow, and all feature some version of the North Star in a nod to the state motto, "L'Etoile du Nord." Several people wondered why none of the final designs featured loons, but the commission members did not think the loon, which spends little time in southern Minnesota, was really a symbol for everyone.
"I liked the colors," said Hannah Addis, of Minneapolis, but she added that many of the designs looked like other emblems. One looked like a bank logo, Addis said.
Ray Diaz,of Minneapolis, said he is proud to be Minnesotan — he was the first of his siblings born here, he said — but he has never felt attached to the flag, and was repulsed when he learned about the story the flag was telling. He had been hoping for a loon flag, he said, but liked the way the final designs related to Minnesota's natural environment.
"These are more unifying," Diaz said.
"Minnesotans, we're all proud to be Minnesotans, you know?" said Jasper McLean, of Plymouth. "It would be cool to have a flag we could all rally behind."