Flag Day has its roots in this Midwestern town

FILE - U.S. flag. (Photo by D. Degnan/Classicstock/Getty Images)

June 14, known as Flag Day, marks the day when the Continental Congress in 1777 adopted the United States’ first "American flag," which consisted of those familiar white stars and blue and red stripes.

But, did you know that one small Midwestern town lays claim to be the birthplace of Flag Day? 

Waubeka, a town about 35 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, reveres Flag Day and all because of a tenacious teacher’s 1885 class assignment. 

Who was Bernard J. Cigrand?

Bernard J. Cigrand, a native of Waubeka, was a teacher at the Stony Hill School in 1885. 

He believed a Flag Day should be celebrated across the country every June 14. He was so passionate about this idea that he assigned his students an essay about what the flag meant to them. 

That assignment and his passion for advocating for a designated day to honor the flag was the origin of Flag Day. 

Cigrand ended up leaving his hometown to attend dental school but never gave up his advocacy for a national day dedicated to the flag. 

Although he died in 1932, Waubeka never forgot Cigrand and in 1946, community leaders established the town’s Flag Day celebration, which has run continuously since then.

Waubeka’s Flag Day essay contest

In addition to having parades, bands, patriotism award ceremonies and military honor guards in Waubeka, they also hold an essay contest. 

In the spirit of Cigrand and his students of nearly 140 years ago, the Waubeka Flag Day celebration includes an annual essay contest and draws entries from across the nation — this year from New York to Nevada and Wisconsin to Texas.

This year’s winners have been announced ahead of Flag Day and were announced on the Flag Day Foundation’s website.

Here are the 2024 winners:

Read the winners’ essays here.

When did Flag Day become official? 

In 1949, over 100 years after the U.S. adopted the first American flag, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation on June 14, designating it as National Flag Day. 

President Harry S. Truman signed the formal observance into law in 1966. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.