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A flag for Fargo: Voting underway for city flag design

FARGO – Not every design turned in for a city flag contest is faring well in voting.

For example, one design, which appears to be a takeoff of the "Obama Symbol" of President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, had only nine votes as of Tuesday.

Sorry, Obama.

But many of the 78 designs in the contest run by The Arts Partnership are doing well.

The arts group, championing a proposal by Fargo native Jackson Ridl, invited designs for a Fargo city flag, and is displaying them on its Web page.

The flag leading in the polling had 330 votes as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. It features two solid white stars bracketing the white outline of a five-pointed star on a blue and green background. The center white star is centered on the apex of what appears to be a pyramid or a hill in the center of the flag.

If it is a hill other than a Red River levee, that would represent a first for flat-as-a-dinner-plate Fargo.

Ridl, a 19-year-old student at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, said he was inspired to call for a Fargo city flag after watching a video of a TED talk by public radio personality Roman Mars about "Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed."

Mars' talk is a humorous tale, urging people to inspire their cities with well-designed flags, while warning them to be careful about what they run up the flagpole.

"There is a scourge of bad flags, and they must be stopped," said Mars, host of "99% Invisible."

Ridl said Fargo residents have a lot of pride and a city flag will be another way for them to express that.

"This is something that Fargo really deserves," Ridl said.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said he had a couple of favorites among the designs. One with 195 votes features a yellow sun, a river on a blue background and the word Fargo. Another design, garnering 179 votes so far, features a city scene by a river in the word Fargo, bracketed by the colors blue and green.

"There's some cool stuff in there. Somebody's been thinking," Mahoney said.

"I never expected, to be honest with you, all these flags," he said. "There's a lot of people who put flags in. It's kind of cool. It kind of shows the interest in the arts community to contribute."

The City Commission must approve the flag design for it to be adopted, The Arts Partnership cautions on its website.

Residents can vote through next Wednesday on what flag they think best represents The Land of the Free, and The Home of the Lutefisk, the art group's Executive Director Dayna Del Val said Tuesday.

The top 15 vote-getters will be finalists, The top popular vote-getter will earn $250, she said.

The finalists will then be vetted to be sure they are original, with no legal restrictions on their use. The Arts Partnership will also work with the North American Vexillological Association and the city's Arts Commission to decide on a flag design to present to the City Commission, Del Val said.

She hopes all that can be done by the end of this year.

"The conversation has been respectful and interesting. I've just been thrilled seeing design reach out to a broader audience all summer long," Del Val said. "The creativeness of this community has really been fun to see."

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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