FILE - In this Tuesday, June 20, 2006 file photo, ingredients of a Fluffernutter sandwich -- Marshmallow Fluff, peanut butter and bread -- are shown in Marlborough, Mass.  Massachusetts lawmakers are considering  the sandwich as the state sandwich. When New Hampshire lawmakers this month shot down as frivolous a group of fourth-graders' effort to name the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor, the pols got pasted as insensitive bullies. But in a state with an official tree, bird, dog, animal, insect, amphibian, butterfly, saltwater fish, freshwater fish, rock, mineral, gem and, yes, tartan, some say the legislators have a point.  (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 20, 2006 file photo, ingredients of a Fluffernutter sandwich -- Marshmallow Fluff, peanut butter and bread -- are shown in Marlborough, Mass. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering the sandwich as the state sandwich. When New Hampshire lawmakers this month shot down as frivolous a group of fourth-graders' effort to name the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor, the pols got pasted as insensitive bullies. But in a state with an official tree, bird, dog, animal, insect, amphibian, butterfly, saltwater fish, freshwater fish, rock, mineral, gem and, yes, tartan, some say the legislators have a point. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)

Surplus symbols: How many state bugs and beans do we need?

  • By RIK STEVENS
  • Monday, March 30, 2015 10:30pm
  • News

CONCORD, N.H. — Maine celebrates its Whoopie pies. North Carolinians proudly dance their Shag. In Kansas, even dirt is official: Harney silt loam is the state soil.

So was it really out of line when a group of fourth graders asked their lawmakers last month to make the red-tailed hawk New Hampshire’s state raptor?

Some legislators insisted on shooting down the kids’ hawk idea to show they had more important work to do, only to be labeled insensitive bullies.

“We already have a state bird. But now do we need a state raptor? Isn’t that a bird?” said Rep. Christy Bartlett, a Democrat from Concord who accused her colleagues of caving to the kids.

Also raising eyebrows was the lesson Republican Rep. Warren Groen gave the 9 and 10-year-olds, when he said the hawk would make a better mascot for Planned Parenthood, since it rips its prey apart “limb by limb.”

More than 70 more state symbols have been proposed across the 50 states this year, many proposed by students. They would name everything from the official Alaska state hostess (Miss Alaska, duh!) to Wyoming’s official legendary creature, the jackalope. (Alas, the jackalope passed the House but died in the Senate.)

Massachusetts alone is considering nine symbol bills this year, including an official form of tai chi.

Sometimes, the kids learn civics.

Sometimes, it’s the lawmakers who get schooled.

A third-grader’s effort to name the Columbian Mammoth as South Carolina’s official fossil got held up by several lawmakers who wanted to declare that God made mammoths on Day Six. She stuck to her scientific principles until the fossil was recognized without the creation language last year.

In Boise, 14-year-old Ilah Hickman lobbied since he was 9 on behalf of the Idaho Giant Salamander, only to be thwarted by lawmakers worried about protecting another species. The last doubters were outvoted last week, sending the bill to the governor for his signature.

New Hampshire already boasts — take a deep breath now — an official tree, bird, dog, animal, insect, amphibian, butterfly, saltwater fish, freshwater fish, rock, mineral, gem and tartan.

“We have to stop these and tell the teacher, ‘I know you want to mean well and you want to encourage your kids and you should, but you shouldn’t be taking up our precious time,’” said State Rep. John Burt. He hosts Hot Dog Day on the statehouse lawn to raise money for charity each year, and poked fun at himself by telling lawmakers they’d soon be picking an official state hot dog.

The raptor bill’s sponsor, Democrat Rep. Renny Cushing, later apologized to the students and teachers for his colleagues’ behavior.

“I told them it’s not always like this here … that we’re really not as mean and cranky as we were that day,” Cushing said.

New Hampshire’s symbol list is far from the lengthiest: Oklahoma has 45, including five state foods, including the state bean, black eyed peas; and six separate meals — among them, chicken-fried steak. The mammoth gave South Carolina 51.

Whose idea was this, anyway?

According to State Symbols USA, the naming game started when a “National Garland of Flowers” created for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair inspired states to adopt official floral emblems.

High school social studies teacher Dave Alcox sympathizes with the lawmakers. He teaches civic engagement, and says it’s vital to get young people involved, but these bills can take time, so he has kids invite lawmakers or the governor to speak to a class, or attend a forum with Supreme Court justices.

“You try to balance that ‘let’s have a teachable moment,’ versus ‘let’s not try to tie up too much time,’” he said.

New Hampshire’s lawmakers aren’t alone in trying to draw a line: Missouri is considering a bill to limit its symbols to 28.

That would sadden fans of “Jim The Wonder Dog,” a champion Llewellyn setter who was said to be able to pick the winner of the Kentucky Derby or World Series in the 1930s.

Yes, Missouri already has an official “historical dog,” Old Drum.

But it doesn’t have an official “Wonder Dog.”

And don’t give up on that raptor just yet: New Hampshire Democrat Jeff Woodburn says he’ll revisit the hawk’s nomination, when the Senate debates designating the bobcat as New Hampshire’s official wildcat.

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read