Springfield is probably best known across the region as the place where three major interstates meet, swirl around each other, and go their separate ways.
The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce wants to change that, and has asked for area students to help.
Last fall, the Chamber announced a contest, open to all students in public or private school or home-schooled, to come up with a concept design for a new Springfield-area flag.
"We have received over 75 entries and we're thrilled," said Elaine Gibson, chair of the event for the Chamber. "The response from schools has been wonderful."
Criteria for the designs were simple: Use up to three colors, create a concept design that could fit on a standard-sized flag; try to portray Springfield as a destination and gateway rather than a place to drive through; and try to incorporate a butterfly, one of Virginia's state symbols, Gibson said.
Gibson approached Lillian Garrity, coordinator for the standards of learning and remediation for Fairfax County Public Schools, to see if the contest could be included as part of a school's art program.
"We receive lots of contest information during the year, and this one was quickly approved," Garrity said. "It was related to the curriculum our teachers already have in place."
THE CONTEST has a "wonderful local human interest aspect to it," Garrity said. "It's a very nice idea."
Gibson said the winning design will be turned into a flag, with a little help from the North American Vexillogical Association (better known as the flag people), and unveiled at either Springfield Days in late May or at the American Legion Post on Flag Day, June 14.
Additionally, the flag will be on display at the Chamber's office, and the hope is for businesses around Springfield to fly it in front of their establishments as well, Gibson said.
The winner will receive a flag with their design, a lapel pin and a $1,000 scholarship from the Chamber, she said.
Chamber members are hopeful this will be a first step toward stronger and more frequent interaction between the Chamber and the large community it serves, which stretches from parts of Burke through Springfield and down into Lorton.
"There has been overwhelming support from the business community and their enthusiasm has been terrific," Gibson said. "And from the schools, we've been hearing great things from principals, teachers, school officials, cluster administrators and the administration."
The final design, which will be selected by a committee of five community representatives, may be a slightly modified version of a contest entry, Gibson said. But the concept chosen will be one designed by an area student.
"That was the nice thing about this contest," she said. "You don't have to be an advanced artist or graphic designer to win."
Chamber president John Pellegrin mentioned the idea to the Chamber after seeing the success the Annandale Chamber of Commerce had with its contest last year.
"As we start our 51st year with the Chamber, or the second half of our first century as I like to think of it, I thought this was a perfect time for this concept," Pellegrin said. "We need a community flag to represent what this whole idea is about."
Asked if he had any idea what he would like to see as the airborne symbol of Springfield, Pellegrin laughed and said "I have absolutely no idea what it will look like at the end of the day."
However, this first effort to make the Chamber more available to the community and perhaps builds some bridges between area businesses and schools has already been a success, he said.
"I think this is a great undertaking," he said. "It shows that the Chamber wants to be part of the community, which is a win-win situation for all of us."
Joni Dim, a computer graphics teacher at Lake Braddock Secondary, said she was happy to give her students a chance to apply what they learned in class to an outside project.
"Several of my students are planning on majoring in art and many are interested in a career in graphic design, so this was a great project," she said. "I am proud of my students' work, they came up with some excellent designs and had fun creating them."
Once the winning flag design has been selected, the Chamber will notify the winner. All students who submitted designs will receive certificates of participation, Gibson said.