A Utah flag flies in front of mountains in Cottonwood Heights on May 12. The mountains are a popular theme among what Utahns told the Utah State Flag Task Force they wanted in a new state flag. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
Estimated reading time: 6-7 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, is drawn to the designs behind Utah’s current flag every time he sees it.
The flag was obviously meant to convey to the rest of the nation that Utahns are Americans and deserved statehood after decades of bickering between leaders and the federal government. A large eagle and two American flags are blended into the design which also includes a beehive and a sego lily.
“I see a different voice in this flag and in the seal,” McCay says. “Their Americanness was in question. Whether or not they belonged in this country was in question. … What I see with this flag are pioneers desperate to be American.”
While he is quick to note that he understands and appreciates their mindset when designing the first state flag, he also wants to make it clear that their conflicts are no longer much of an issue. Utah has proven over the past 126 years that it does indeed belong.
McCay and other members of the Utah State Flag Task Force are now preparing to sift through thousands of new flag designs and ideas to determine what message the Utah flag should send to America today.
Nature is the first favorite
Utah’s outward splendor seems to be the main theme Utahans want the nation to know about Utah right now.
“Enjoying natural beauty” and “adventure” were the top values, while mountains, delicate arch, red rocks, snow, Great Salt Lake and national parks were all among the top 10 symbols, landmarks and cultural icons based on feedback from Utahans on what a new flag should contain, said David Wicai, director of strategic initiatives for the Utah Department of Culture and Community Engagement.
Red or orange, blue and white rose to the top of the main colors of the flag. These colors are all meant to characterize the red rocks of southern Utah, the sky or the Great Salt Lake, and Utah’s famous snow or snow-capped mountains, respectively.
The working group has officially received over 5,000 flag designs online or by mail from its “More Than a Flag” submission period. Wicai added all 29 counties and even locations around the world submitted designs. There is no official number yet as they are still sorting through all submissions.
Wicai and Lindsey Ferrari, a consultant for Utah’s More Than a Flag initiative, provided those numbers to the task force in an update on the flag design collection process during a meeting at the U.S. Capitol. state on Tuesday. They told the task force that members of a design review board, which includes elected leaders, design experts and students, will be able to review what people have come up with next month.
The values, symbols and colors are among the 1,500 text submissions also submitted during this process. This is what the Utahns wanted in a flag without designing one themselves. It offers the first look at what Utahns want in a new flag and what the winning design might look like.
Although the findings lean heavily on natural themes, the findings show that Utahns aren’t necessarily ready to let go of some of their past either.
Other ideas circulated
Bees or a beehive and the sego lily flower also landed in the top 10 symbols and icons, while “worker” – or industry – was among the highest values. Other values included “family”, community”, “pride”, “faith”, “trustworthy”, “kindness”, “service” and “freedom”. Temple Square and Native American themes have landed among the major symbols and Icons.
Wicai said most of the answers matched what he would have suspected, but some original ideas came up. These include some of Utah’s staple condiments and desserts.
“We got quite a few responses for the Fried Sauce; we had quite a few responses for the Green Jell-O – not necessarily in the top 10 values, symbols and landmarks, but we got quite a few responses from people about what they thought was important,” he said.
Governor Spencer Cox quickly chimed in to joke that Utah’s next draft should focus on “rebranding our culinary history.”
The next steps
Wicai said the list of ideas was forwarded to five Utah-based professional design firms, which the state had contracted to design up to 10 flags each by June 10. there is no guarantee that professional designs will be among the finalists.
The State’s Design Review Board will finally review the collective pool of online, physical, and professional designs on June 24. The plan is still to narrow down the designs to 20-30 finalists, which will be made available to the public in August.
The working group is still working out details on how the public will see the finalist designs, but elements of that may include all of these being made into real flags flying somewhere in Utah. Ferrari suggested it could be an actual tour across the state so all Utahns can see the final designs in person if they want.
A new design is still on track to be selected and voted on by the end of the year.
Respond to concerns in the process
Ferrari added on Tuesday that the wheels of the project are still in motion even during what is described as a “quiet phase”. As the committee considers design ideas, it will still seek to address any remaining concerns about the flag, such as cost and the threat of losing state history.
“We discussed how we convey that. I think a response to that — you can see it in the audience response — people still like the same things,” she said. “It’s not that their passions have changed about what makes Utah great, it’s just how to demonstrate it?”
During the meeting, a member of the public also asked about the political motives behind the measure, which sparked about 20 minutes of task force members downplaying the role of politics in the redesign of a flag. ‘State.
In short, they don’t believe it plays a role in redesigning the flag to represent the state today. The situation in Utah more than a century later is very different from the policy that resulted in the original design, although that design would still remain the governor’s official flag if a new flag were adopted.
McCay said he has listened to children in classrooms and spoken with adults about the flag and what it should represent today, and there are people from across the state who are eager to rename the state flag.
“Not everything that changes is because of politics. It’s one of the things that I think people lose sight of,” he said. “The level of commitment that you’ve seen from people across the state, to be involved in the design, I think is pretty spectacular.”