Back in 2004, a study of 150 city flags found that only two cities had a worse banner than Rapid City.
The North American Vexillological Association, which tracks flag designs, rated Rapid City’s banner 148th, with only Huntington, W.Va., and Pocatello, Idaho flying more cringe-worthy banners.
A couple weeks ago, the potentially embarrassing designation was revisited when a March 4 Wall Street Journal story, “Surprise! Your City Has a Flag and It’s Terrible,” cited the results of the vexillological association’s study. The story went on to note some city’s efforts to redesign their flag following the results.
Milwaukee, Wis., which came in one spot ahead of Rapid City at 147th, commissioned a contest to redesign their flag in 2016. For now, though, the city has yet to formally adopt it as the city’s new emblem. Provo, Utah (143rd), unveiled a new flag in 2015, as did the city with the worst flag, Pocatello, in response to the ratings.
Since the less than proud moment, Rapid City has changed its flag too, though no one is quite sure whether it was ever made official or when exactly it happened. City spokesman Darrell Shoemaker said some longtime city employees have guessed it was around 2010 or 2011.
The flag that garnered the abysmal rating — the words “Star of the West” at the top center in red, with “Rapid City, South Dakota” in blue underneath and the city’s seal, in gold, in the bottom center — was redesigned to be more visually appealing.
What else but the faces of Mount Rushmore — sketched using blue lines akin to the etchings in rock on the true monument — with “Rapid City, South Dakota” below, and the nickname “City of Presidents” at the bottom. The white flag has gold trim at its bottom and top border. Though not present outside city hall, the flag currently rests in Mayor Steve Allender's office.
“Obviously, this has a different look than the one previous,” city spokesman Darrell Shoemaker said in a Journal interview Tuesday. “We take a lot of pride in being the city of presidents.”
Shoemaker noted how the same organization rated the South Dakota state flag 68th out of 72 flags in a different study, with only the Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and Georgia flags worse.
“Someone in the organization must have had a bad experience in South Dakota,” Shoemaker joked. “They came here and the Mount Rushmore faces were fogged up or they didn’t like our friendly attitude in Rapid City. But you know, we’d invite them back again to take a look at our new flag.”
The vexillological association did not respond to a request for comment but according to a Black Hills Pioneer story in 2004, Ted Kaye, the man who conducted the survey, said incorporating the city seal and use of words on the flag are both big design no-nos. South Dakota’s state flag, which has the state’s name on it twice, also negatively affected its score.
Pierre, the only other South Dakota city in the 2004 survey, placed 115th. Sioux Falls does not have an official city flag.