What’s on your city flag? If your city has one at all, it’s likely an official seal with wording. More likely, you have not given a city flag any thought at all. But there is one man who wants to change that for his town.
Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell is on a mission to create a lasting legacy for his city, something citizens can look upon for generations: a city flag.
And what inspired him to hatch a plan like this?
“I watch a lot of TED Talks,” Powell said.
One day he came upon a Talk on flag design from 99% Invisible podcaster Roman Mars. Powell said it "piqued [his] interest."
"Few things give me greater joy than a well-designed flag,” Mars says in the talk.
But, why give a TED Talk about flag design?
“Sometimes I bring up the topic of flags and people are like, ‘I don’t care about flags.’ We start talking about flags, and trust me — one hundred percent of people care about flags. There’s just something about them that works on our emotions.”
And it turns out people do care. Shortly after the TED Talk was published last year, a designer pushed to change Austin’s flag. But the effort in Cedar Park is different. The initiative is coming from the top.
“Afterward...I said, 'maybe our city flag could use some work, but it's not horrible,'" Powell said.
But expert vexillologist Ted Kaye might disagree. Vexillology is the study of flags. He wrote a book called Good Flag, Bad Flag, which provides the base material for much of Mars’ talk.
Cedar Park currently has what flag folks like Kaye call a bedsheet: white rectangle, official Cedar Park logo in the middle – a white sprig of cedar against a two-tone green background – and the words “Cedar Park” along the bottom.
“If you need to write the name of what you’re representing on the flag, your symbolism has failed,” Kaye said. Mars used a recording of Kaye speaking when he presented his TED Talk.
Powell is optimistic that with public input, his city can come up with something that evokes Cedar Park’s future while drawing on its past.
Danny Bell has seen Cedar Park grow from the beginning. His dad, Kenneth, moved the family to a spot just off Highway 183 his senior year of high school. Within a few years, Kenneth Bell and other residents officially incorporated as a city. Danny Bell’s dad became its first mayor.
“It’s a special little town, and you know most of the people. Now it’s kind of grown, but in my mind, it’s still a little small town.”
To say Cedar Park has grown is an understatement. By many metrics, it is among the fastest growing cities in the nation. Census data estimates Cedar Park's population has grown more than 20 percent since 2010. Currently, the city has more than 60,000 people, seven times the size it was in 1990.
Already home to national retail chains, more are on the way, including Whole Foods’ 365, Nordstrom Rack and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
It’s also home to the newly renamed H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, an 8,000-seat arena that is the home for minor league teams of the NHL’s Stars and the NBA’s Spurs. As a concert venue, it has drawn the likes of George Strait, Paul Simon, Motley Crüe, Alicia Keys and even Vanilla Ice.
By every metric, this town has come a long way from the Cedar Park Danny Bell’s father helped coalesce around water lines back in 1973.
Bell still lives and works in Cedar Park, just off Bell Boulevard, which was named after his dad. Bell continued the family tradition serving on the city’s planning and zoning commission for a time. As for what he’d like to see on a flag?
“I don’t know. I guess I’m not really in tune with what really goes on flags. I don’t know where to let my mind go,” he said.
This is where Roman Mars’ talk and Ted Kaye’s book can help.
There are five basic principles of flag design:
- Keep it simple – so simple a child should be able to draw it from memory
- Use meaningful symbolism
- Use two to three basic colors
- No lettering or seals
- Be distinctive or be related. You don’t want to copy someone else’s flag, but you can show that you’re connected to something bigger.
So, what do Cedar Parkerers – Cedar Parkerites? Cedar Parkonians? (There's actually no official designation, according to the mayor and, perhaps, that might be the next civic pride initiative.) So what do the residents of Cedar Park think should be on their city flag?
While eating at Moonie’s Burger House on Bell, longtime resident Margie Mello thought about her answer.
“There’s a lot of trees around here. You know, a whole bunch of them. Oh, boy, you got me stuck now… a lot of trees… a lot of flowers… Subdivisions, something like subdivisions, because there’s a lot of houses going up and everything,” Mello said.
Working the counter, Christie White offered her thoughts on what should be on the flag.
"I think it’s more laid back over here. It’s much more easy-going. People like to go to the lake and hang out,” she said. “I think I would put the lake, and the sunshine.”
Outside the Cedar Park Public Library, Curtis Carr also sees a connection to the lake.
“I think of Cedar Park as the downtown to the Lakeside communities. I mean it’s beautiful. I’d like to live out there, but they have to come here. That’s what makes us different from Pflugerville or Round Rock. Somebody get an artist to somehow conceptualize that.”
The only problem with that is the lake, Lake Travis, sits several miles west of Cedar Park's city limits.
Cedar Park mom Melissa Millican has her own idea.
“It could be all of us people sneezing our heads off from the amount of cedar.”
Flags aren’t going to be a priority until someone makes it so. Mayor Powell sees this as an opportunity for Cedar Parkers to think about community and what it means to them, and perhaps be an example for its neighboring municipalities.
“This is not a need-to-have in the city. It’s a nice-to-have...we are concerned about things like city image and making sure that we’re recognizing our history. And getting into flag design and doing a local flag design contest here really goes to both of those things.”
Residents have until Saturday to submit their flag ideas.
They may ask themselves questions that maybe we should all ask occasionally: Who are we? Why are we here? What does this place mean to us?
The lake, the trees, the affordable housing, convenient shopping, the schools, the allergies – any of those things could find their way onto the flag. Or, maybe none of them do.
“I guess that’s a good problem to have, that maybe we have enough important things that not everything is going to make it. If none of those specific events are particularly recalled on a flag, maybe the spirit in which those achievements were made can be somehow recalled.”
Cue the Cedar Park anthem – does Cedar Park have one of those?
“We do not. We do not,” Powell said. “Any suggestions?”