Newton’s flag recognized as one of country’s best

By Adam Strunk

You can fly your Newton flag with pride. It’s one of the best-designed flags in the country.

That’s according to the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA). Vexillology–your $10 word of the day–is the study of flags.

NAVA, a group of more than 1,000 flag enthusiasts and scholars, released the results of a national survey evaluating the 312 city flags it had knowledge of adopted after 2015. 

According to the group, 2,852 people responded to the survey, including 308 members of NAVA. They rated flags on a scale of one to 10. Newton’s flag, “The Grain and Train,” scored in the top 25 of flags rated with an A grade. For context, only 46 flags in total received an A grade, and the average grade flags received was a D+ (3.65). Nearly half of the flags reviewed earned an F rating.

While beauty–and flags–are subjective, NAVA put forth a set of vexillological criteria for respondents to review on what makes a good flag. 

It stated flags should be simple, have meaningful symbolism, use two to three colors, refrain from lettering and seals and be distinctive or related. 

“A well-designed city flag can foster civic pride and community cohesion,” stated the organization. ” It can support the city’s branding and promotion. And a simpler flag usually costs the city and its residents less, leading to its broader use.”

Newton’s two-color flag has rail tracks representing the city’s railroad heritage as well as grain representing its agricultural history.

That is gratifying to hear that our flag is considered well-designed by City flags,” said Newton Director of Communications Erin McDaniel. McDaniel helped with the selection of Newton’s current flag. “When we went through the design contest process we did use the standards that the vexillological association put forth as resulting in good design.”

As for how Newton’s flag compares more locally, Kingman and Topeka received A grades for their flags. Hutchinson received an A-. Park City received a B+, Valley Center a D, and Sedgwick a D-. 

NAWA has conducted flag surveys in the past, such as in 2004 when it rated existing city flags. The iconic Chicago flag as well as the Wichita Flag rated in the top 10 of that survey. 

Efforts to create a Newton flag existed as early as 2017. In 2020, a steering committee took submissions for flag designs to be considered for the city flag. The public had a chance to vote on top designs and selected Newton’s Grain and Train, which was adopted in October of 2020.

The winning design was submitted by Ashleigh Lakey and designed by Brandon Eck.

Since its adoption, the city has flown the Newton flag for special occasions on its Main Street. It was used during the city’s 150th-anniversary celebrations. The flag is in the public domain, meaning anyone can change or tweak or use the design on just about anything. In the last few years the flag has been incorporated into into a mural and also shown up in a large amount of merchandise and branding throughout the city.  

McDaniel said she was happy that so many residents had taken up using the flag.
“It seems like since that contest process people have really embraced it. It’s cropped up more and more in very different sectors,” she said. “It did what it was designed to do. It provided a visual rallying point for community and identity and that’s exactly what a city flag should do.”


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