There was a time Sen. Dan McCay thought a new Utah flag was “a ridiculous idea.”
But now, McCay, R-Riverton, is sponsoring a bill to give Utah a brand new flag — a process that fielded thousands of design ideas from hundreds of Utahns.
The Senate voted 18-10 last week to approve McCay’s bill, SB31. It’s now waiting to be considered by the House. If the bill wins approval, the state’s current flag will be reclassified as a ceremonial flag.
Looking back on the yearslong process, McCay said his favorite part has been the passionate public participation. On Tuesday in the Gold Room of the Utah Capitol, he and other legislators recognized 70 people whose designs were used as inspiration for the flag’s new beehive design.
The artists, some as young as elementary school students, came from all across the state and some even from outside of Utah to accept a $100 prize. Initially, the state had set aside a $5,000 reward for the person who designed the flag. But because not one single person deserved all the credit, state leaders decided to split the prize money into 70 shares.
McCay told a story of one of his constituents who passed away while drawing up their own inspiration for the new Utah flag.
“On the top of his seat that he was sitting in when he passed away, on the top of his papers, was a half completed design of the flag,” McCay said, choking back tears.
He said the man spent “his entire life in service and serving others. ... He thought this was the last thing he could do to serve.”
Each person who contributed to the flag’s design, McCay said, will be memorialized in state history.
In their search for a new state flag, state leaders launched the More Than a Flag initiative, which fielded more than 44,000 comments on 20 semifinal flag designs. Officials sifted through more than 7,000 flag designs and text submissions, which they eventually narrowed down to 70 designs that all in their own way inspired the proposed new design.
Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, and Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, helped present the prize money to the 70 individuals. Calling each by name, the participants held a cardboard cutout of their flag and shook the legislators’ hands.
Each of the participants signed the banners surrounding the podium that featured their flag design.
Legislators hope the new flag will be memorable and incorporate symbols to represent all Utah residents, McCay said.
“A new flag,” McCay said, “is that chance to recognize our common identity and symbols, ideals, opportunity and diversity.”