A compass rose with a crown rose against a clear blue sky, a queen reigning over Springfield for the first time at 2 p.m. March 1.

The Central High School Kilties drum and bugle corps played and marched across the south end of Park Central Square as the flag reached the pinnacle of pole, piercing the otherwise quiet and peaceful afternoon with perfectly timed drums and cymbal clashes. The Kilties’ sharp drum beats kept the time for the start of Springfield’s journey under a new banner.

John McQueary, co-founder of the Springfield Identity Project and developer of Hotel Vandivort wore a gray T-shirt with the compass crown insignia under a navy blue sport jacket.

The Springfield Identity Project proposed a new design for an updated flag in 2017. On Jan. 10, 2022, the Springfield City Council voted to adopt the compass crown flag as the official flag of the city of Springfield.

McQueary explained that his interest in flag symbolism started with a 2015 Ted Talk by radio producer and design podcast host Roman Mars.

“We were actually sitting right over there on the patio of Coffee Ethic,” McQueary said, indicating the coffee shop on the south side of the square from where he stood in the middle of Park Central. “This would have been May of 2016, and we had the idea and brought the group together, and worked on it for about eight months and released it in February of 2017.”

(Photo by Jeff Kessinger)

A committee of about 12 people engaged with other design-minded folks who were passionate about flags as symbols of Springfield. All told, McQueary estimates about 25 people had hands in coming up with what became Springfield’s official flag in early 2022.

“I feel like there was a lot of positivity at the very start, right? And then we just let it simmer for a number of years, and it just continued to grow. I think we were a little surprised at some of the pushback at the very end, but truthfully, I get the perspective. It’s a design; not everybody is going to like it. It is a subjective thing, but if nothing else, that just demonstrated how many people care about this community,” McQueary said.

Onlookers waved small, handheld versions of the new flag at the ceremony on the square. Some had T-shirts or caps with the compass crown insignia against the light blue and white backdrop. City Councilman Andy Lear rode his bicycle to the event, and did so wearing a cycling kit made to look like the new flag, a large compass emblem across his chest and “SGF” on both sleeves. Lear said that he had had the bike kit for a couple of years before the flag was officially adopted as Springfield’s flag.

Springfield Mayor Ken McClure hopes the new flag will inspire Springfield residents to look for positive traits in their community.

“There are many great things about Springfield: the natural beauty, our history as a crossroads for the nation, our centrality to the Ozarks,” McClure said. 

Humility might be Springfield’s most overlooked trait.

“Too often, we hesitate to brag on ourselves. I urge you to recognize the flag as a way to express your community pride. Let this new flag speak to not only our unique history and identity, but also serve as a symbol of hope, opportunity and the transformative days ahead,” McClure said.

(Photo by Jeff Kessinger)

McClure said the flag is more than a mere object, but a representation of people.

“Powerful in its ability to stir emotion, a flag represents an idea or an ideal,” McClure said.

Before the new flag took flight, Springfield City Utilities and dignitaries from the police and fire department retired the former flag, which flew over Springfield for 83 years. McClure read a proclamation on the old flag before he presented it to the History Museum on the Square.

On Feb. 22, the Springfield City Council took up the introduction of a bill to designate a historic city flag. A final vote on the designation is scheduled for March 7.

The new flag has a white stripe against a light blue backdrop. The stripe symbolizes the Ozark plateau and Route 66. In the center of the flag, the black compass crown insignia offers up imagery of Springfield’s place as a national crossroads and a reference to the city’s nickname “Queen City.” According to the flag’s proponents, the three stars represent innovative spirit, connection with nature and Ozarks culture.

McClure drew a connection to the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the response from the rest of the world, in touching on what makes flags important to the countries, states and cities that they represent.

“Why do people become so invested in flags? I was reminded, as I’m sure you were, of the power of a flag’s symbolism over the weekend as I watched scenes from literally all around the world of people flying the Ukrainian flag in solidarity with its people,” McClure said. “It is a symbol of unity and a symbol of hope.”

The first Springfield flag was chosen in 1938 from 26 designs by art students at Springfield Senior High School, today Central High School. On March 13, 1938, Phoebe Hensley, secretary of the Springfield Commercial Club, finished sewing the first Springfield flag.

In honor of the adoption of the new flag, a fund has been set up through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to support nonprofits aligned with the new flag’s themes of “innovative spirit, connection with nature and Ozarks culture.” Donations are encouraged.

Selected nonprofits involved in the event are the Geek Foundation, Watershed Center of the Ozarks, Springfield Regional Arts Council, History Museum on the Square, Ozark Greenways, Foundation for Springfield Public Schools and the Community Partnership of the Ozarks Homeless Services Division.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger is the managing editor for the Daily Citizen. He previously covered local governments from February 2022 to April 2023. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger