Wichita city flag, locally unfamiliar, ranks high in poll

? f you can find one, run it up the pole, and know that quite a few people who are interested in flags think Wichita’s is one of the best.

Though infrequently seen in its hometown, the Wichita city flag was a top finisher in an Internet contest run by people who study flags. (They’re called vexillologists.)

The city flag, which dates to 1937, was ranked sixth in the North American Vexillological Assn.’s survey. The Web survey, which isn’t a scientific poll, asked the group’s members and the public to rank 150 flags.

The Washington, D.C., flag got the top rating, followed by those for Chicago, Denver, Phoenix and St. Louis. Rounding out the top 10 were Portland, Ore.; Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky.; and Corpus Christi, Texas. Topeka ranked 46th, Jefferson City, Mo., 63rd and Kansas City, Mo., 103rd.

“Wichita has a great flag,” said David Martucci, the association’s president. “It was my number one pick.”

The city’s flag, designed by C. Cecil McAlister, symbolizes the Indian word “Wichita,” meaning “scattered lodges.” It features a white circle, representing home, a blue sun for happiness, red stripes signifying honor and white stripes for courage. Together, the symbols mean that people are free to come and go.

“I didn’t know we had one,” said Lynette Murphy, who’s lived in Wichita for 11 years. “I assume it would have the city logo on it — maybe the Keeper of the Plains or something like that.”

Dorothy Wells, a secretary at Helgerson Co., estimates that through the years the local flag supplier has sold less than a dozen Wichita flags. A 3-by-5-foot custom-made city flag costs nearly $70.

The city flag isn’t even flown at City Hall.

The official city flag of Wichita flies next to Wichita City Hall. The flag was ranked among the nation's best city flags in a recent poll.

“You have logistic concerns,” said Gail Williams, assistant to the director of public works.

“You can’t really put more than two flags on a flag pole at once,” she said. “By the time you get the federal flag, the state and the prisoner of war flag up — you just can’t put them all up.”

Martucci said the top-rated flags in his association’s poll tended to be simple, using a symbol rather than writing or a seal, and have two to three basic colors.

View the other top-ranked city flags at www.nava.org/city_survey.htm.

“The purpose of a flag is identification,” Martucci said. “If it is fluttering in the wind on top of a pole, it has to be simple and direct.”