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Montpelier Unveils New Flag After Old Design Shamed In TED Talk

Montpelier's new city flag takes the place of one thrown together years ago to display in the Rose Parade.
Courtesy: City of Montpelier
Montpelier's new city flag takes the place of one thrown together years ago to display in the Rose Parade.

The nation’s smallest capital city has a newly designed flag.

Montpelier’s original flag was created in haste years ago when the nationally televised Rose Parade put out a call for flags from all the state capitals.

The city didn’t have a flag at the time, so officials used a logo from a “Welcome To Montpelier” sign to create one. Even the logo’s designer didn’t think it worked for a flag, but time was of the essence.

After that, Montpelierites essentially forgot about their flag; until it came up in a presentation by design expert, broadcaster and flag fan Roman Mars who displayed it in a nationally broadcast TED Talk.

“Few things give me greater joy than a well-designed flag,” said Mars in his talk on vexillology – the study of flags. Mars went on to show examples of well-designed and not-so-well designed city flags.

He was rhapsodic about Chicago’s flag,  but that was the exception.

“There is a scourge of bad flags, and they must be stopped,” Mars said as he displayed a group of examples on a large screen behind him. There, front and center was Montpelier’s flag.

Mercifully, Mars didn’t dwell on Montpelier. The city fared far better than Milwaukee and San Francisco whose flag faults were highlighted. Poor Pocatello, Idaho’s flag was declared "worst city flag in North America" by the North American Vexillological Association, according to Mars.

The TED Talk got the attention of some in Montpelier and the issue of the flag came up at a city council meeting.

“The common response when this first came up was, ‘we have a flag?’" says Montpelier City Clerk John Odum. True, the city flag flew outside city offices, but no one seemed to notice.

“It looks like a logo on a flag. It doesn’t look like an official flag,” says Odum.

He admits a flag design, good or bad, wasn’t an important issue to anyone, but being singled out by Mars in his TED Talk seemed to demand some kind of response.

“There was a feeling of, ‘well do we want to let this sit there?'” says Odum.

So Montpelier announced a competition for a new flag design.

Entries were submitted and finalists chosen. The winner was selected through an online vote and officially unfurled at the city’s Independence Day parade this month. The new flag was designed by E. Montpelier native Chet Larrow, now of Baltimore, Maryland.

According to Larrow, his design, “emphasizes Montpelier's representation of the 14 counties as well as [Vermont] being the 14th state to join the union. The gold stars are displayed in a circle to subtly represent the iconic round dome that both visitors and locals come to associate the city with."

In an effort to keep Montpelier residents from forgetting again that they have a flag, the new one will be available for sale beginning later this month.

“I want to buy one for my house, and a few other people have asked,” says Odum.

Odum says he emailed Roman Mars’ office with news that Montpelier had a new flag and asking for his feedback on the design.

“I sent a copy of the winning one…but have yet to hear anything,” he says.

Odum says it cost the city nothing to create the new flag and it was worth the time that went into it. 

“A well designed flag can be seen as an indicator of how a city considers all of its designed systems;  its public transit, its parks, its signage,” Mars said in his TED Talk. “It might seem frivolous, but it’s not.”

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