It was 1937, and Wichita was in need of a flag.
Wichita Mayor T. Walker Weaver held a contest with more than 100 entries. Artist Cecil McAlister won first place and $40 for his design.
The flag features three red and white rays extending from a blue sun with the Native American symbol for home, or hogan. The blue circle represents happiness and contentment at home, while the rays symbolize paths for the freedom to come and go as one pleases.
It was officially adopted on Flag Day and first flew over City Hall on July 23 that same year. For years after that, however, its presence in the city was extremely small.
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Today McAlister would be pleased to know that his flag has experienced resurgence and become a symbol of Wichita pride. Not long ago, finding a flag proved to be a challenging scavenger hunt. But today, it’s a common image woven into the city’s landscape from murals, T-shirts, bumper stickers, pint glasses at breweries and plenty of flag swag on local store shelves.
Loud and proud
McAlister would also appreciate that much of the flag’s resurgence can be credited to local artists, like himself.
The ICT Army of Artists, a collective of creatives, artists and activists, incorporated the flag into their logo. Member Armando Minjarez says it was important to them to use a symbol that would help shape the identity of Wichita. Minjarez, who moved to the city in 2012, says he’s seen a noticeable increase in pride. He thinks the flag has given Wichitans a much-needed emblem.
“It’s about how we change the stigma of Wichita,” Minjarez says. “It’s a good place, and we have to be loud about it – proud about it.”
Products to show, share
The Workroom, an interior design and home decor store, carries one of the largest selections of flag gifts in the city. Owner Janelle King has enjoyed experiencing the flag’s resurgence first hand.
King became familiar with the flag when her original store location looked out to Abode Venue, one of the first locations to fly it years ago. When the store began making flag patches on fabric remnants in 2013, King consistently heard the same line of, “I’ve lived here all my life and never knew we had a flag!” Today it’s a different story.
“In 2017, community members and Wichita natives are actively seeking flag products to show and share,” she says.
King loves that the flag is more than a cool symbol found on shirts and mugs. She’s noticed a shift in perceptions of Wichita.
“We jokingly use the hashtag #theresnothingtodohere because it is an adage we have all heard so many times,” King says. “But anymore it’s simply not the truth, and the emerging pride has embraced the banner as their symbol to showcase this.”
Angie Elliott, vice president for membership and engagement at the Wichita Chamber, has become a knowledgeable and passionate supporter of the civic pride the flag has come to represent.
A native Wichitan, she discovered the flag just a few years ago. Since then, she has become actively involved in flag education.
The chamber created an ilovewichita.org site that provides flag information and lists places to buy flag items or spot a flag mural. The chamber also manages Wichita flag social media accounts for those looking for flag information and inspiration.
“I think people are really receptive to finding ways to celebrate their pride in Wichita and to have one symbol that they can rally around,” Elliott says.