Jennifer Brooks
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Not everything Minnesotans ran up the flagpole on Statehood Day was the new state flag.

At Herold Flags in Rochester, customers were snapping up Minnesota flags — plural.

"In all the years I've been in business, I've never even come close to selling any flag more than the U.S. flag," owner Lee Herold said. "Now I've been selling more state flags than U.S. flags."

The new state flag: bold blues and sharp angles. The old state flag: long ignored, long derided, suddenly in demand. And the North Star flag. The one Herold co-designed decades ago when he launched his long campaign for a flag all Minnesotans could get behind.

"Frankly, I was astounded that people were still coming in to get it," he said. The flag he designed to represent Minnesota is a golden star on a field of blue for Minnesota's lakes and rivers, white for our winters, green for our farms and forests.

There were probably more Minnesota homes flying North Star flags than the actual flag when the search for a replacement began last year. Some Minnesotans still make room for it, in their hearts and on their flagpoles.

"I had someone come in this morning and they got both. They got the new [flag] design and the North Star," said Herold, who has also had several customers double up to purchase both the old state flag and the North Star.

When Minnesota launched its search for a new flag last year, Herold submitted his North Star for consideration.

It wasn't the flag the committee chose. None of the thousands of flags Minnesotans designed quite match the version that now flies above the state.

But the flag competition brought out the best and weirdest in Minnesota. There were lady slippers and laser loons. There were flags that evoked Ojibwe beadwork or heirloom quilts. There were constellations of stars in a kaleidoscope of colors.

All of them represented Minnesota to somebody. That's a pretty great thing to represent.

Minnesota made its choice. And so did Minnesotans, who have flocked to online and brick-and-mortar shops to buy whichever design says "Minnesota" to them.

Welcome to the second life of Minnesota's second-place flags.

A month before Statehood Day, a new flag rose over the crowd at a Minnesota United game. A bright white flag, with the image of a bag, and the legend, printed in letters big enough for the players to read and share the thrill of Minnesota pride: BAYG.

Bayg flag — beloved crowd-pleasing longshot in the state flag redesign contest — lives.

The State Emblems Redesign Commission, for reasons that surpass all understanding, declined to choose even one of the flag designs that feature loons shooting lasers out of their eyes. Yet laser loon lives — on flags, on totes, on stickers, on any surface that could be improved by the addition of a laser loon.

Including your library card, if you're lucky enough to live in St. Paul.

"One of the joys of my job is asking 'what if?'" said Claire Huber, marketing and communications specialist for the St. Paul Public Library. After watching social media collectively melt down with glee over the funniest state flag designs, she wondered: "What if we made a laser loon library card? Wouldn't it be funny if we did?"

After watching several "how to draw a loon" tutorials online, Huber designed her own laser loon, with the legend: "READ."

Suddenly, a library card was the hottest ticket in town. The library gave away all 500 new cards — and 500 laser loon stickers for existing cardholders — in a matter of days and quickly printed a thousand more.

"One of the best things about this project has been to bring delight to people," she said. "To see something so silly, but so community-driven. Everyone has an opinion about the flag … I think it taps into the innate pride of the North."

Minnesota hasn't quite realized Herold's dream of one flag we can all rally behind.

"Reminder," Gov. Tim Walz posted on social media on Friday. "Minnesota's new official state flag will be raised for the first time tomorrow."

Below the post was the image of a flag, waving proudly as light broke through dark storm clouds. On that flag were two words: Naz Reid.