Minnesota's new state flag doesn't actually become official until May. But Christopher Finlayson has already been flying the blue-and-white colors outside his home in Columbia Heights since the end of January.

"It's new. [I'm] just more excited to show it off than anything," Finlayson said.

In the weeks since the state flag commission approved the new design in mid-December, following months of debate, it's started to show up on flagpoles as well as mugs, stickers, hockey jerseys and other merchandise, as entrepreneurs try to capture the excitement generated by the process of replacing the old flag, which was adopted in 1957.

Minnesota's statehood day, the anniversary of the day in 1858 when it became the 32nd state to join the union, is May 11, which is also the day the new flag becomes official. Democrats who control state government have generally backed the new banner, but Republicans have been trying to turn their opposition to the redesign into a political rallying cry.

The new flag is simpler in design than the current one, which features an illustration of a Native American on a horseback waving to a farmer set on a blue background. The new version works better from a design standpoint, said Michael Green, owner of Flags for Good, an Indianapolis-based retailer that sells flags in an online store and to other businesses.

Green said Minnesota's new flag looks much better than the old one on merchandisable items.

"They need to be recognizable at a distance," Green said. "Any flag that has a seal on it fails the test off right the bat."

Flags for Good made garden flags, stickers and an LGBTQ version of the new Minnesota state flag since its reveal in December 2023.

Lee Herold, owner of Herold Flags in Rochester, had advocated for a new state flag since 1987. He said the old one was "not popular."

"People would come in to get the state flag and they didn't even know what it looked like," Herold said.

"I had originally purchased it thinking, 'Oh, I'll hang it on Flag Day,'" Greene said. "But then I got excited when it arrived in the mail."

Republicans want to give voters final approval over the new design.

Rep. Bjorn Olson, R-Fairmont, served on the flag redesign commission, which included 13 voting members. He and other GOP legislators say the process was rushed and included only a handful of opinions.

"Thirteen people don't have the right to tell 5.5 million people who they are and what they should identify with," Olson said.

Herold, the Rochester store owner, is a member of the North American Vexillological Association, which is an organization of flag lovers who talk about and promote flag designs. He and the Rev. William Becker of Austin, Minn., submitted one of the 2,000 designs for the flag commission to consider, but the panel went with a mockup created by 24-year-old Andrew Prekker as the basis for the new state flag.

Prekker joined a Reddit server called "Vexillology" to learn how to create a meaningful flag. His final design had three main concepts to represent the state: the North Star, blue for water, and an abstract shape of the state. Prekker said it's been a thrill to see it start popping up in the real world.

"People around the state are putting it on their front porches, which is crazy, and a really cool process to see," Prekker said.