Let it fly: the story behind the symbolic flag of the town of Bellingham

A flag can represent an idea or an ideal. Historically, flags represent a wide range of culture, history and symbolism. More than 150 American cities fly a flag representing their community and local pride. Same Seattle has a flag — Did you know ? And no, it’s not Seahawk 12th Man. Seattle’s current flag was designed for use in the 1990 Goodwill Games held in Emerald City that year.

If the criteria for having a flag are pride and a sense of community, then Bellingham has that right in abundance. And precisely, in 2017, a flag of Bellingham was born.

If you visit Bellingham, almost everywhere you go, shop or eat you will see the green and blue flag flying. It is even painted on the sides of buildings and incorporated into murals of the city’s history. The city’s pride is contagious and displayed publicly with honour.

The flag, designed by Bradley Lockhart as an entry into the Bellingham Town Center Partnership competition, is mainly three colors; green, blue and white. The prominent blue semi-circle represents Bellingham Bay with the two stars on either side signifying cultural significance, as well as the influence of the Nooksack Indian Tribe and the Lummi Nation.

The three wavy white lines represent Whatcom Falls or the literal translation meaning “noisy waters”. When flying vertically, the waters look like waterfalls. When level, the waters are more like waves on the bay. And finally, the four green stripes, in alternating tones, nod to the four original towns that joined to form Bellingham today: Whatcom, Seahome, Fairhaven and Bellingham.

This richly symbolic flag certainly strikes a chord with locals. Not only is it prominently displayed in businesses, painted on walls, and flown through the airport, but as Lockhart jokes, “even Macklemore danced with it during a gig.” Lockhart even offers a Pride version in rainbow colors.

Officially adopted by Bellingham City Council in April 2017, Lockhart’s design could be seen flying around the town for over a year before this official installation date. Its original design is what we see today. And we see it flying from the masts of ships, in the form of bumper stickers, patches, even tattoos.

“The flag shows civic pride and simply states it,” says Lockhart. “I’m so proud of where I live.”

Lockhart grew up in the area, playing along the Nooksack River as a child. His upbringing will play a role in the design of the flag, keeping the symbolism simple and clean, reducing it to the very essence of his beautiful city. And his talent for graphic design struck a chord with the locals.

“I think it’s invaluable,” says Lockhart. “Flags mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Mainly it’s who we are and what we are. Flags should reflect that identity.”

Flags are a unifying symbol – a brand of town to rally behind, bringing cohesion to a community and this Bellingham banner hits the mark.

The world can seem unstable at times, but according to Lockhart, “People like to invest locally when the big world is falling apart. They wonder what role can I play? This flag is a tiny part of it.”

The flag design is now in the public domain and that’s where Lockhart likes it, “It should be something everyone will own. I think it’s really cool.”

What’s next for Lockhart?

He has design ideas to pitch for a new Washington State flag, and he recently designed a Washington-themed board game. Only the the plank is a fabric bandana. The play structure is reminiscent of childhood favorite chutes and ladders, only with iconic imagery relating to our Evergreen state. As you move the pieces around the cloth board, you may encounter a Sasquatch, climb Mount Rainer, encounter a troll, pass the Palouse Falls, take a state ferry, or hike through the Hoh Rainforest.

And the idea behind the bandana as a game board? It is portable, of course! The entire game packs into a fabric pouch, making it versatile enough to take on a Pacific Northwest camping trip, hike, or dinner at the beach. And as a bonus, the bandana also makes for a stylish and creative head covering.

What could get more Washington than that?

Lockhart sits behind his desk at Creative Lariator connect with him on social networks to see what his next big thing will be.

MaryRose Denton is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. See more of his work here.

Although the products, services, and/or accommodations in this story have been provided free of charge, the opinions it contains are those of the author and Seattle’s fine editorial board.