A BANNER IDEA
FLAG EXPERT IS HERE TO HELP CITIES LEARN WHAT'S NEEDED TO CREATE A REGIONAL
Published: Saturday, April 4, 1998
Section: LOCAL , page B1
Source: BY MIKE KNEPLER, STAFF WRITER
© 1998 Landmark Communications Inc.
What does Hampton Roads do when it has a vexing regional problem?
It brings in a vexillologist.
Peter Orenski, a Connecticut-based vexillologist, is not here to help the region
de-vex itself of problems such as water quality, traffic congestion or
Orenski, a national flag expert, is here to help create a Hampton Roads regional
A group called the Regional Identity Task Force unfurled the flag idea to help
build unity and boost the ``Hampton Roads'' name here and around the world.
Today, Orenski will teach a jury of 16 citizens representing the region's 17
localities how to judge a flag contest. The effort will try to winnow down 85
semi-finalists submitted by area high schoolers into three final picks.
Later this month, the public will vote for a winner via local newspapers.
``You may not understand the significance of what you are doing,'' Orenski said.
The project may make Hampton Roads the first region in the country to fly its
own flag and the first to have a regional public vote.
Known as ``the flag man of New Milford,'' Conn., Orenski, 58, trained fellow
citizens for a hometown flag contest in 1994 and 1995.
He is so proud of the New Milford flag that he'd like to get the design -
featuring the town gazebo - tattooed on his arm or chest someday.
Orenski, a member of the North American Vexillogical Association, heads a
59-year-old family business, TME Co. Inc., which makes flag-motif lapel pins,
watches, pens, mugs, cigarette lighters and playing cards. His customers, he
said, include the White House, which buys flag lapel pins for each foreign
country President Clinton visits.
Flags can promote overzealous and dangerous nationalism, he said. ``But they
also can transcend and become a symbol of unity, of bringing people together.''
Communities - even nations - cannot promote flags alone, he said. They need the
help of for-profit business enterprises, which can put the logo on shopping
bags, napkins and other high visibility items.
James F. Babcock, chairman of the Hampton Roads Regional Identity Task Force,
which is sponsoring the flag contest, foresees entrepreneurs coming out with
Hampton Roads flag T-shirts, sold to tourists and worn back home in communities
such as Cincinnati.
Before a flag can be marketed, it must be designed.
Instead of asking the localities to negotiate for a regional flag, the task
force gave the job to area high schoolers. Some 300 entered the contest and 85
made it to this weekend's semi-final judging.
But getting down to three finalists may not be as easy.
To make the final selection, Orenski will teach the jurors the basics of flag
design: simplicity, strong well-contrasted colors, visual impact and relevant
``What I mean is, you can't do a buffalo'' in Hampton Roads, he said. But ``it
has to be distinctive - be able to be seen atop a flagpole 30 feet up in the air
or on a tiny lapel pin.''
About 70 of the entries won't make that cut, Orenski predicts. But, eliminating
the next 12 will be tougher, he said.
``With the final three, we have to look again and ask `Did we miss something,
forget anything, do these have the colors we like, the best symbols?' ''
The three strongest designs - from students or professionals who might be
brought in - will be unveiled to the public for balloting. Voting will be
through the automated telephone services of the region's two daily newspapers,
Orenski is excited about working with the Hampton Roads project.
``Virginia has a very sophisticated flag culture,'' he said. For example, a
handout from the Regional Identity Task Force notes that the flag of the
commonwealth sports a semi-topless female warrior - Virtue - standing on
``Tyranny, represented by a man completely overcome, his crown fallen from his
head, . . . a whip in his right hand.''
There's another reason Orenski is enthused.
``There was no public vote in New Milford. We had a representative form of
decision making,'' he said. ``You guys will have direct democracy.''
IAN MARTIN/The Virginian-Pilot
The Regional Identity Task Force brought Peter Orenski, a Connecticut-based
vexillologist, to Hampton Roads to help create a regional flag. High school
students entered 300 designs for judging.
Today a citizen jury will narrow down a field of 85 entries from high school
students to three finalists, or recommend three other designs for professional
artists to work on.
The public will vote among the three finalists from April 20-24, by calling the
automated telephone services of the region's daily newspapers.
The contest is sponsored by the Regional Identity Task Force and the design will
be owned by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.
Sponsored by the Regional Identity Task Force; design will be owned by the
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.
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