ST. PAUL, Minn. — Good news for loon lovers: The new Minnesota state seal will feature the bird prominently in its center.
The State Emblems Redesign Commission on Tuesday unanimously picked the new design out of five finalists, citing public support. Around 6,000 people submitted online comments to the panel about the seal, which is on official government documents, and the new flag ideas received another 15,000 notes.
The state seal design was also a favorite among commission members when they narrowed the field of hundreds of submissions to the top five ideas last month. All others included a star on them; this finalist was the only one with the state bird on it, an element.
The commission may make design modifications to it. There have been discussions about removing 1858 — the year of statehood — and the state motto "L'Etoile du Nord." They also may change the color of the loon's eye and the outline of the star.
"We have two more scheduled meetings. That's it. And although they're long meetings, and in person, I favor doing as much reasonable winnowing as we can," said Secretary of State Steve Simon, a member of the panel. "Because if we go into the next meeting, doing deep dives on 11 things — six flags and five seals — I really fear we're going to run out of time."
Both the flag and seal must be chosen and submitted in a report to the legislature by Jan. 1. Then they will debut on Statehood Day, which is May 11.
Next week, commissioners will meet again to zero in on choosing a new flag and make any edits necessary to both designs.
"We will have a lot of alternatives and changes between the same design," commission chair Luis Fitch said of the top seal choice.
Gov. Tim Walz weighed in on the news Tuesday afternoon, saying he's a "fan" of the loon.
Why is Minnesota changing its flag?
The current flag is the state seal on a blue background with Minnesota's name on it.
It's been criticized for its imagery of a white settler plowing the land as a Native American on horseback rides off into the distance. Others say it violates the tenets of "good flag design," which values simplicity with meaningful symbols.
This year, the DFL-led legislature created the State Emblems Redesign Commission, a 13-member voting panel that includes non-voting lawmakers, to overhaul the designs.
They've been meeting many times this fall and Minnesotans got a chance to submit their visions for the future flag and seal for the members to consider.
The current flag dates back to 1957, while the current seal has been in use since 1861.
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