It took a 33-year-old Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but 26-year-old Thomas Rosete needed just five minutes to create the Mosquito Flag.
Rosete never created a flag before. But as a deckhand on the Yazoo River, he spends his days swatting at a pest that every Mississippian knows too well: the Mosquito.
Rosete created the Mosquito Flag as a joke, but this week it took on a life of its own.
“I believe people from all background can get behind this and raise it proudly,” Rosete told the Clarion Ledger, part of the USA TODAY Network, in an exclusive interview. “I said something like that in the (submission) email. And now I actually do believe that.”
Mississippi is currently in the process of choosing a new flag. Lawmakers took a historic vote this year to take down the old state flag, which featured the Confederate battle flag.
Rosete and nearly 3,000 Mississippians have since submitted designs for a new state flag, some more serious than others. Rosete said he had submitted his flag as a joke, but it made it to the second round of 147 designs. “I’m a sucker for underdog stories and the Mosquito Flag was definitely the underdog going into the competition,” Rosete said.
The flag was cheeky. It was irreverent. It was fun. It was exactly what many Mississippians needed to distract themselves this week from an exceptionally difficult year.
But it wasn’t long before the Mississippi Department of Archive and History swatted it down. The Mosquito Flag had been selected accidentally. The reaction online was swift and negative. For Rosete, it was a whirlwind.
“It was a very emotional hour,” Rosete said. “I went from the highest of highs to, ‘Oh, well, that sucked.’”