‘Manchester Waves’ Flag Contest: Which flag will represent the city? You decide!

Take a look at the three final designs!

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Flag committee members, from left, John Clayton (judge), Daniel Bérubé (judge) , and Adam Hlasny, who brought the idea of a city flag forward. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – A panel of judges gathered at City Hall on June 10 to narrow the field of entries for the Manchester Waves Flag Contest, a quest to establish an iconic flag that represents our city. Out of 288 entries, judges selected three finalists who submitted designs that fulfilled the requirements – submissions poured in from around the world, but most of them were created by locals, young and old, who put their ideas on paper and sent them in for consideration. The official breakdown: 204 designs were submitted by New Hampshire residents; 159 from Manchester residents; 80 of those were designed by students; and 84 entries came from people outside of New Hampshire.

International submissions came from Sweden, the Netherlands, and the most “exotic” locale, Macedonia.

But overwhelmingly, the entries were home grown, and judged by numbered submission, without information about the artist to sway the judges. As it turned out, the three finalists are all Manchester natives, said one of the seven judges, John Clayton. He also pointed out that, contrary to popular belief, Manchester doesn’t actually have a flag.

“We have a city seal on a banner, but that’s not the same thing as a city flag,” Clayton says. “There’s a movement  underway to get cities to rethink their flags. In a poll of 150 city flags in the U.S., Manchester was ranked 118. And many of those that trail us are the same thing, they have a representation of the city seal on a banner.”

The flag committee was educated about the gold standard of flag design, and the No. 1 criteria is “bold,” followed by a few other basic rules: No more than two or three colors, no words, no numbers.

“So essentially it will be symbolic as opposed to representational,” Clayton says. “Where do flags normally fly? Atop buildings. And if you look at the city seal of Manchester flying atop a four-story building, there’s no way in which you can identify the particular elements on the flag, because it’s a complex piece of artwork as opposed to something simple and bold, which is part of the rationale for this movement across the country, as well.”

A sea of submissions.

Clayton says no matter what the final outcome, the project has already been a success.

“I think the process is just as important as the outcome. We’ve engaged a whole generation of kids from Manchester in the notion of what it is that represents their community, including some English Language learners who embrace this as a wonderful opportunity for engagement in their new home,” continues Clayton. “Their teacher, Sheila Droney, sent us a letter, it’s a beautiful letter, and in part, she said her students didn’t grow up with Crayolas, and so to be asked to put pen to paper was just an extraordinary opportunity for them.” [See the letter below.]

Adam Hlasny, a self-proclaimed flag buff, spearheaded the effort by bringing his idea for a city flag competition to Will Stewart, formerly of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, who told him to bring the idea before the Board of Aldermen. 

“I had to convince [Alderman] Pat [Long] at the beginning, because he thought I wanted to change the city seal. My objective was more to divorce the seal from the flag, so the seal will remain as the seal,” says Hlasny. “The hardest part is talking to people about why this is even necessary. Some people look at what we’re trying to do and say, ‘Why does that matter?’ Quite simply, the seal just doesn’t work well on a flag.”

The designs that didn’t make the final cut will be displayed on the mhtflag.com website, and hopefully put to other creative uses around the city, says Daniel Bérubé, of the Manchester Arts Commission. The judges are also hoping to reconvene to select a winner from among the student entries, as well.

“From the Manchester Arts Commission point of view, we saw this as a prime opportunity to get involved with the culture of the city, and artists having their voices heard, through their submissions – and having children from city schools involved, because they are our future,” Bérubé says. “And to those who may have objections about ‘changing’ the flag, we’re not changing it, we’re creating something because, currently, a true city flag doesn’t exist.”

The three design finalists (in no particular order) include: Megan Roy of Manchester, Peter Raiche of Manchester, and Brian Gallagher of North Bethesda, MD (a former Manchester resident).


Designer: Megan Roy:

This flag contains the blue and yellow of the NH state flag, as well as a crown to represent the city’s favorite nickname: Queen City.


Designer: Peter Raiche:

Flag 2

Manchester is nicknamed the Queen City and the queen’s crown represents our city’s nickname. The blue in the flag represents the Merrimack River that runs through our city. The red on the sides of the flag represent the mill buildings. While the river divides the city, the mill buildings that were built on each side of the river bring us back together as we work, live and play in them.


Designer: Brian Gallagher:

Flag 3

The flag is intersected by a green band, mirroring the Merrimack River flowing through Manchester. In the middle, an abstraction of a waterfall references the “good fishing place,” Amoskeag Falls, central to the city from its earliest days. The waterfall design forms the shape of the letter M with its vertical lines angled at 12 degrees to represent the city’s wards. The flag’s field is blue for the waters of the Merrimack River while the band is green for Manchester’s abundant green space.


The next step will be to circulate the images widely throughout the community, including outreach to educate residents as to why creating a city flag is a positive move forward – for identity, visibility and as a marketing tool, Hlasny says. “Not having a symbolic flag is a huge lost marketing opportunity – residents can be proud of it, and it can be used in so many ways. The city seal is great, but a flag is something entirely different.”

Think of it as a representative logo, much like the recognizable look of official Red Sox or Patriots gear.

These final three submissions will appear on the ballot for Manchester’s November Election, and the final selection will be voted on by the residents of the City of Manchester, with final approval from the Board of Aldermen.

Committee members point out that no city dollars are being spent on this project, which is being handled by volunteers – including raising money to pay for the color ballots needed on Election Day, so voters can see each “candidate” flag in full color.

Flags ready for judging inside the Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall. Photo/Daniel Bérubé.

Judges for the first-phase of the flag competition included designees from the following organizations:

  • Donna Gamache, Board Member, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC);
  • Karen Mayeu, Head of Graphic Design, New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA);
  • John Clayton, Executive Director, Manchester Historic Association (MHA);
  • Daniel Bérubé, Chair, Manchester Arts Commission (MAC);
  • Barbara Shaw, Ward 9 Alderman, The Board of Mayor and Aldermen;
  • Katherine Mirable, Teacher, Manchester School District (MANSD)
  • Sarah Crain, Student, MANSD.

Prior to the judging session, judges studied the five basic principles to create an outstanding flag and underwent a training session with Ted Kaye, author of Good Flag, Bad Flag, a pamphlet designed for The North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) which is an organization dedicated to the study of flag history and symbolism.

GMCC, NHIA, MHA, and MAC announced this contest for the design of a new flag for the city of Manchester, in February of this year.

“An innovative design for the Manchester city flag is a fantastic opportunity to encourage civic engagement while also positively marketing and branding our community,” said Michael Skelton, President and CEO of the GMCC. “The city flag also serves as a tool that shares a story about history and future of Manchester to those throughout the state of New Hampshire and beyond.”

Involving several city entities insures that the flag will be representative of all those who live and work in the city.

“We’re proud to join with three other civic-minded institutions who, like us, recognize the value that a well-designed city flag can play in galvanizing support and fostering pride in a city,” said NHIA President Kent Devereaux. “For 119 years, the New Hampshire Institute of Art has been located at the center of Manchester, and today, as a college of art and design, we clearly understand the value of good design.”

This whimsical design from a student artist features a shad wearing a crown.

To learn more about the contest, visit www.mhtflag.com.


About the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) is the largest chamber in New Hampshire, representing nearly 1,000 businesses. Incorporated in 1911, the GMCC focuses its efforts in the ten communities of Auburn, Bedford, Candia, Derry, Goffstown, Hooksett, Litchfield, Londonderry, Manchester and Merrimack. The GMCC is an independent, not-for-profit business organization whose initiatives are funded solely by the membership through annual dues and benefit fees. The Chamber is not a government agency, nor affiliated with other groups or organizations. To learn more, visit www.manchester-chamber.org.

About the Manchester Historic Association

Founded in 1896, the Manchester Historic Association is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization with the mission to collect, preserve and share the history of Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. The Association operates the Millyard Museum and the Research Center, both of which are open to the public. The Association presents a variety of public programs including lectures, walking tours and concerts, and school programs for students from third grade through college. Call (603) 622-7531 for more information, or visit www.manchesterhistoric.org.

About the Manchester Arts Commission

Created in 1937, the Manchester Arts Commission (MAC) is dedicated to promoting art of all forms within the City of Manchester, NH. Working closely with the Economic Development Office, the Planning Board and Intown Manchester, MAC ensures that public art works may possess beauty in the highest practicable degree. MAC operates solely through tax deductible contributions from like-minded companies, organizations, educational institutions and individuals via the Manchester Arts Fund. Through the fund, MAC commissions public sculpture and public art displays to elevate appreciation of Manchester’s growing arts community – while directly adding to the economic impact of arts and culture within downtown Manchester. To learn more about the programs that MAC offers, visit www.manchesterartscomission.org.

About the New Hampshire Institute of Art

The New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA) is the oldest and largest non-profit arts institution in New Hampshire, founded in 1898 and today offering undergraduate (BFA, Dual Degree BFA/MAT), graduate (MFA, MAAE, MAT), and community education programs (Youth Arts, Pre-College, Community Education, and Professional Development) serving over 2,000 students annually on two campuses in Manchester and Sharon/Peterborough, New Hampshire. NHIA is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). NHIA is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). For more information visit: www.nhia.edu.


About Carol Robidoux 5552 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.