At a very basic level, a flag is a piece of material. But we know from our lived experiences that flags are more than fabric. They are more than symbols. They are more than flying rectangles flapping in the breeze.

Flags are visual representations of the values of people and communities. Flags exist that represent countries, cities, organizations and ideologies.

I never paid much attention to flags until I volunteered to serve on the Rochester Flag Project Committee. This team has been selected to accompany our community through the process of choosing a new flag. Since joining the committee, I am now noticing flags everywhere. Isn't it funny how you can go years without noticing something only to realize it was right in front of you all along? And so begins my personal vexillology love story (vexillology is the study of flags).

Over the last few months I have been noticing flags in so many places. Schools, churches, government offices, parks, libraries and homes. The frequency of these flag sightings has been a vivid reminder that flags really do matter. They mean something! They communicate a message.

The visuals we use to represent our values, organizations, cities, and countries have the power to shape us and remind us of who we are and who we aspire to be. I'm thrilled that our city is coming together to be intentional about the flag we want to fly moving forward. As one of my fellow committee members said, "I am excited about helping to choose a flag that really represents who we are as a city. I want it to be a flag I'd proudly fly in my front yard."

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The current Rochester city flag was designed in 1980. A creative art student designed it and incorporated geese, the city skyline, and the city's name. We can be grateful for its creation and use over the last 37 years. But its dated script and imagery have revealed to many that the time has come to explore together a new visual to represent our city.

Gratefully, we all get to participate in the process. Community members have submitted 55 flags for round one. Now it's time for the community to vote on round 1. Visit rochesterflag.comto do so. Round two will open later this fall. You can follow along with the whole process by visiting the Rochester Flag Project Facebook page at Facebook.com/rochesterflagproject. Please consider voting for both rounds and contributing a flag design for round two.

As you vote, I encourage you to ponder five bits of flag theory guidance (more information on the project's website). A good flag embraces:

• Simplicity

• Meaningful symbolism

• Two to three basic colors

• No lettering or seals

• Distinctiveness

I learned about the attributes of a good flag from Lee Herold, owner of Herold Flags. He's supporting the work of the Rochester Flag Project. Harold is also the secretary of the North American Vexillological Association. We are fortunate to have such a source of expertise and guidance in our midst in Rochester.

Please take time to participate in the Rochester Flag Project. It's a way that we are coming together to celebrate our community. What are the qualities and elements of our city you'd most like to see represented in our new flag? What simple rectangular visual would most effectively tell the story of who we are and who are becoming?

We all get to be part of this process. No vexillology experience required. Your opinions, intuitions, and creativity are the only requirements. Thank you for being part of the Rochester Flag Project, and thank you for coming together at the end of this collaborative process to embrace our city's new flag – whatever it may be.