Mistress of the Mix: Flag Nerds


Hey, wanna play a game? It might help you win a thousand bucks.

Have you ever seen that episode of the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and a lady friend host a webisode of "Fun With Flags?" A real fan would know that there's not just one but five episodes, and a total flag nerd would also probably know that a flag nerd is called a vexillologist. I can't even say that word.

I'm not that nerd, but financial planner Aaron Hatch totally is. So is recovering architect Emily Applekamp, for that matter. In fact I wouldn't put it past these two (both members of Catalyst Redding) to actually host their own webisode of "Fun With Flags" in the near future. That's because these two, along with the rest of the Catalyst gang, have come up with a contest to design the new Redding city flag that will feature a cash prize of $1,000.00 (and a handful of smaller cash prizes as well).

The other night I met with a bunch of Catalyst Redding members over pizza and beer to play Good Flag Bad Flag. If you're interested in winning that thousand bucks, you might want to take this opportunity to read further and play a few rounds with us. You can leave your answers in the comment section below. I'll be the judge and figure out a worthy prize for the best answer. It should be fun (unless you were the designer of the current Redding city flag).

Round One: Tell me what's wrong with this flag. (Hint: it can be more than one thing. Extra hint: It IS more than one thing.)

Current Flag

Speaking of judging, I'm not going to be winning that thousand bucks, because I am, full disclosure, one of the judges for the Redding City Flag Contest. One of a bunch of judges (including several other media personalities including Carl Bott and Patrick John), who will be distinguishing the good flags from the bad flags and narrowing submissions down to five finalists. Each of whom will win a cash prize of several hundred dollars. Then y'all - the humanity of Redding - will get to ultimately decide who wins that thousand bucks...that person being the designer of the new flag which will fly from city hall (and let's hope a bunch of other places in town), proudly symbolizing Redding as the place we call home.

OK, Round Two: What city does this awesome flag belong to, and what makes this design great?


Before we get to the next round, I want to share a little history with you, and a pretty funny TedTalk, then I'm gonna lay out some rules, and then I'm gonna challenge you to put the right side of your brain to work by drawing a little picture in a 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch box. Four things. You can handle it. Oh, and if you want the answer to Round Two, watch the video.

Are you game?

First, the history. It wasn't even two months ago when the city council ended up on the receiving end of some furious criticism from constituents over the plan to redesign the city's flag. You can read our own Jon Lewis' recap of how the whole thing went down here, but basically Francie Sullivan had an idea to create a city flag, not realizing that Redding already has a city flag (city staff came up with a design, and when it was shown publicly, people got pissed, saying it was a waste of city staff efforts and money (an estimated $2,500) during a time when the focus needs to be on fighting crime, drugs and homelessness.

Personally, I think $2,500 is a drop in the bucket when it comes the city's current problems, but I get it. City staff and department heads need to listen hard right now to the fed-up citizens of this town and get a little more creative when it comes to dealing with these issues. But enough about that, because I'm also of the mind that those who criticize should be ready to be part of the solution, and I'm not quite ready to run for city council. Maybe not ever.

But Catalyst Redding Young Professionals, a local volunteer-based non-profit, agreed with those angry citizens. The city has more important things to focus on right now. They heard councilman Brent Weaver's suggestion that somebody hold a contest to design a new flag, and Catalyst Redding members have taken the idea to heart. They're willing to put up their own cash not only for the contest, but for manufacturing the flag, which will be presented to the city as a gift.

That's free. At no cost to the city. And no city staff time involved in the effort. It's a beautiful thing.

There's no cost to enter the contest, and its open to every single resident of Shasta County. If you have a four year old artist at home with some crayons and a piece of paper, that child could be the designer of the next Redding city flag. In fact that would be pretty cool. If you think I'm joking, check out this amazing and simple flag that everyone should recognize. Which is the point, of course.

Round Three: What country belongs to this flag and what does that red dot symbolize?


Oh yeah, and now, without further adieu, check out this rad TedTalk about what makes a great city flag and how city flags can not only help establish a better connection between citizens and their city, but how some young entrepreneurs might be able to really capitalize on manufacturing some cool swag once Redding gets a new flag. Its a little lengthy. But its so awesome. And if you want to win $1,000 I strongly suggest that you take a few minutes out of your day to watch flag nerd vexillologist (just try to say that word out loud! Just once!) Roman Mars wax on about the worst city flags ever:

If you've made it this far, you're interested, right? So you're ready for the rules.  You can find them at the Redding City Flag Facebook page, but just in case you don't have Facebook, its open to anyone of any age as long as you live in Shasta County. You can submit as many designs as you want. It should be original, positive in spirit, use six or fewer colors, and should not be mean spirited, or use references to alcohol, drugs or religious symbols. And submit it by the end of March.

I think that pretty much covers it, but if you're really serious about entering a winning design, watch that TedTalk, and consider some of the main points Roman Mars made about design elements that can make or break a flag.

  • Keep it simple
  • Use meaningful symbolism
  • Use a small number of basic, solid colors
  • No lettering or seals
  • Be distinctive or be related

If you're ready to get started creating your own city flag design, try drawing a 1 inch x 1.5 inch box. I know that sounds small, but that's how people see an actual flag from a distance. If your design is too complex for that box, then it might be too complex for a flag.

OK people of Redding, get to the drawing board, let your freak flag fly, and hit the play arrow below to get some musical inspiration with a Fly Your Flag playlist.

One more thing. A special word to those of you who have been reading this column thinking "This is ridiculous. A new flag isn't going to solve any problems." Just remember that this is a fun exercise to get us thinking positively and creatively about our city. And friends, wouldn't you agree that thinking positively and creatively is exactly the first step needed to solve pretty much any problem?

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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19 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    It’s a Grand Old Flag – George M. Cohen.  I’m guessing the new flag will feature the Sundial Bridge.  Or maybe some turtles and eagles.  On a negative note, since so many A News Cafe articles and City Council meetings are about homeless camps and panhandlers . . . . . . . .  but I doubt local artists could portray that in six colors or less on a postage-stamp size box.

    • Valerie Ing says:

      Oh snap! Good song, Bev! I actually thought I had put that one on at the end! I’ll add it. I think the community will – hopefully – choose a flag that is representative of Redding’s positive qualities, the ones that still sparkle through during our acne breakouts. I hope that we, as citizens of Redding, can stop standing in front of the mirror and telling ourselves that we’re fat and ugly, and instead stand in front of that mirror and say, “I have some really positive qualities and I have 100,000 friends.”


  2. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    1.  The City of Redding Flag depicts the “Three Shastas” (mountain, lake, and dam), none of which are in Redding.

    2.  Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    3.  Japan, rising sun (c’mon)

    A few more flag-related songs:

    Ashes of American Flags — Wilco

    Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn — Drive-By Truckers

    U.S. Blues — Grateful Dead

    My Very Own Flag — Less Thank Jake

    Wave That Flag — Bottle Rockets

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I’ll add:  There are several very different songs titled “Freak Flag.”  My favorites are by Greg Brown and Southern Culture on the Skids.  The “Freak Flag” by Kevin Max on the playlist?  Not my jam.

    • Valerie Ing says:

      I know that it seemed like #3 was just waaaay too simple, but that is exactly the point. Simplicity is key! It should be so simple that any kid who can hold a crayon can try to imitate it.  And yet “Land of the Rising Sun” is exactly what Japan is all about. You see that symbol everywhere. It sings “Japan.”  Love your flag suggestions. And I thought I put the Bottle Rockets on the list! I wasn’t a huge fan of the Wilco song, but….for you Steve, I’ll add it!

      • Valerie Ing says:

        Oh, and you are absolutely correct about the things wrong with the current city flag (although there are some other things too). And Mount Shasta isn’t even in this COUNTY.

  3. cheyenne says:

    Cheyenne has a bison on its flag which is also on the Wyoming state flag and Cheyenne does have the Terry Bison Ranch partly in the city limits.

    An eagle, or like the state flag, a bear could be on the Redding flag or the Sundial Bridge, if the flood didn’t wash it away.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I’m partial to the state flags of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee,  and Alaska for their simplicity.

      For weirdness, it’s hard to beat South Carolina’s new flag (which replaced the Confederate Battle Flag).  It depicts a saw palmetto and a crescent moon that makes it resemble an Islamic nation’s flag. (You would think that an Islamic-looking flag would not fly in S.C. of all places.) Weirder still, the new state flag is also a Confederate battle flag—that of the South Carolina volunteers.

      California’s flag is odd, too.  Still, I like it.  I’m not alone—the North American Vexillological Association surveyed its members on the designs of the 72 U.S. state, U.S. territorial, and Canadian provincial flags, and they ranked our state’s flag as 13th best.

      Among the states that desperately need new flag designs, Hawaii is at the top of the list.  God-awful.  A humuhumunukunuku?pua?a fish on a blue background would be an improvement.  A silhouette of a Duke Kahanamoku surfing on a longboard would be an improvement.  Something similar to South Carolina’s new flag, featuring palm trees, would be an improvement. And those are all bad ideas.

  4. A. Jacoby says:

    I love the energy and vision of some of our younger Redingotes. The attitude of “There’s a problem? That’s just an excuse for a solution!” Hmmmmm. . . . now what can I envision the worth $1K????

  5. A. Jacoby says:


  6. Denise O says:

    I would suggest a simple, silver fish in jumping mode like the stainless steel ones in the grass at the West Cypress/Pine Street intersection on a verdigris background!


    I’m not the one to draw such a thing. But anything to do with our beautiful section of the Sac would suit me just fine.

  7. Russell K. Hunt says:

    My design for the new flag has the river, the trestle, Shasta Bally, and a bike wheel as a ship’s steering wheel (helm). But it is a graphic representation  rather than literal. So no copying.

  8. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    No artist was involved in the design of any of those “bad” flags.  When I first heard about the idea of a design for a new flag for Redding,  I thought….why not ask some local (but nationally recognized) artists to be a part of the project.    Thank you Valarie and thank you Catalyst Redding…..I’m going to spread the word.

    To be fair, most of the city flag designs in the video were a clash between art and ….not art.  How hard is good design and art?  Not too hard because kindergarteners can do it.  Right?    Great Article Valarie.

  9. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    By the way, I love the current design of the flag of Redding….for a seal or letterhead.  Someone put a lot of thought into this piece.  I’m learning that the flag design has to be much simpler.


  10. cheyenne says:

    Actually the present Redding flag really is a statement.  Redding, gateway to the North State.  It shows what the North State offers, boating, fishing, hunting, skiing, hiking, outdoor activities under blue skies.  Maybe it just needs to be promoted more.

  11. Mike Jones says:

    Kudos to the “Catalyst” people for underwriting the flag contest!  And, best of luck to all those designers and artists that will put their “shoulders into it”.

    I can’t help but think that the effort is made doubly difficult for the designers when our city has yet to adopt a “brand”, or “tagline” that gets much past the non-image of a “Hub”  or a “Gateway” to something.

    Branding is an element of marketing and it requires collaboration of special interest group leaders. Thinking outside of the box creatively with an eye to, not only what we are, but what we aspire to be for years to come. This would not only help travelers to form a positive image of us but even help civic leaders with General Plan and Zoning cohesiveness.

    You know that too many out-of-towners see an image of an egg frying on a sidewalk when thinking about Redding.  We can do better than that.  We’ll need the building trades, realtors, proponents of trails and bikeways, together with arts and culture, downtown and cross-town, and river people and continuum-of-care people to help us all with our civic pride and community self-image.

    Maybe the flag could come first, and the branding could follow the theme represented by that flag, but I can’t help thinking that the cart has been placed before the horse.

    Best wishes to the artists and designers, and my thanks to Catalyst for championing this project.



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