Is Cedar Rapids flag tattoo-worthy? That could be true test in picking new design

Public voting to begin in April

Flag submission for the City of Cedar Rapids
Flag submission for the City of Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS — An effort to redesign the Cedar Rapids flag is nearing the home stretch with an ample array of ideas ranging from Andre the Giant’s infamous local link to the Cedar River to the city scape, industry and green space.

The city has received 218 design submissions, which has included online entries, paper submissions, and creations during public events such as Resident Appreciation Day, City Week, or connected to displays at the local library.

“We were not sure what to expect, but we are happy with the amount of participation we’ve gotten,” said Maria Johnson, who is coordinating the redesign for the city. “People seem excited about the idea. We have received a good variety of submissions and good quality.”

Between now and April, volunteer professional graphic artists are culling through the submissions to compile the most common themes into around four final options from which residents will choose. Members — not the association itself — of the North American Vexillological Association will be offering advice to further refine the designs. The association is a leading authority on the study of flags.

Ted Kaye, a 35 year member of the association who plans to assist in reviewing submissions and creating a scoring criteria, said hundreds of cities have undertaken flag redesigns since a viral Ted Talk video about bad municipal flags. The key is keeping it simple and remembering the flag should embody the city as a whole and its residents, not the city government.

“It is a core iconic symbol of a group that tugs on people’s heart; that’s why it matters,” Kaye said. “When you have a simple, attractive design, the citizenry tends to fly them. The best marker of a good flag is when it shows up in tattoos.”

The next big milestone is public voting, which is slated to take place throughout April. The new flag is expected to be unveiled on June 6 at the Resident Appreciation Day Farmers Market.


Johnson pointed out the finalists and new flag will be compilation of ideas from numerous submissions rather than one specific submission.

“The goal isn’t to select one of the submissions as the final design. but rather a community project with input received from different designs informing the final design,” Johnson said.

City Council member Ashley Vanorny championed updating the Cedar Rapids flag, which had been criticized as one of the nation’s worst.

“We had a lot of really passionate citizens,” Vanorny said. “This is exactly what we hoped for — a wealth of responses. We wanted the community buy-in. A flag is so personal to a city or a country. I think the end result will be something we cherish as a reflection of the city of Cedar Rapids.”

Submissions run the gamut.

Some took a light hearted approach, such as a flag depicting the arrest of wrestling legend Andre the Giant, who was infamously detained in Cedar Rapids following a match 30 years ago.

“We should be proud that we arrested this awesome dude because I’m pretty sure we’re the only ones. Right?” the submission stated.

A submission titled “Blue Diamond, Green Field” is an abstract concept with a green back drop and bisected by blue diagonal slash representing a river with a diamond.

“May’s Island (represented as the diamond) stands out in the center of the Cedar River, which is boxed in by industry and infrastructure of the city,” the submission states. “The location of the diamond on the flag is analogous to the position of the city in Iowa.”


Another submission features two tones of blue waves, a blue globe and five yellow stars on a white background.

“Midnight navy combines with a vibrant deep sky blue to depict the continual motion of the Cedar River, a pivotal landmark that makes our city unique and one of a kind,” the submission states. “In the upper left hand corner are 5 golden stars, each representing one of the 5 seasons of Cedar Rapids and the city’s 5 star commitment to being one of the best places in America for residents to live, work and play.”

Johnson noted blue and green were the most common colors and the river and “five seasons” were the most common references.

Dan Alpers, of Cedar Rapids, submitted a design featuring a brown city skyline, a tree in the center, and a subtle ripple of a river underscored by the words “Cedar Rapids” in a plain font to symbolize blue collar roots and “Iowa” in a stylized italic to represent efforts to become “hip and cool,” he said.

“We are here because of the river, but I didn’t want it to be the driving force behind the whole thing,” he said. “We are more than that.”

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