Archived Story

Group mounting a ‘Welcome to Fergus Falls’ sign project

Published 11:04am Friday, January 18, 2013

Many rural, small communities have beautiful and permanent monument signs welcoming people into town. But not Fergus Falls.

For the last two years the Fergus Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) board has discussed the lack of welcoming signage, and has decided to lead the charge in doing something about it.

“The objective is simply to welcome people and remind visitors where they are,” said Jean Bowman, CVB Executive Director. “Having five exits off I-94 means we have lots of people for whom this might not be their final destination. A visual reminder that is creative and welcoming is positive and helpful.”

But because there is more than one major thoroughfare approaching town, and gateway signs are expensive, the project is no small task.

“Since the City doesn’t have funds to do this, we brought the idea to Forward Fergus Falls — they were supportive, but not enough to make it one of the Destiny Drivers,” said Bowman. “So, our board said let’s lead the charge.”

A committee was formed with members from the CVB, the city, Forward Fergus Falls, Springboard for the Arts, Blandin Leadership, West Central Initiative and the Chamber of Commerce.

“We are working on this collaboration to make Fergus Falls more welcoming for everyone — residents and visitors,” said Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Workman. “A beautiful gateway welcome sign will be a landmark monument that makes our residents and businesses proud to call Fergus Falls home.”

Last August the group sent out request for proposals to nine artists, then narrowed it down to two. Based on the proposals, a design by local artist Lance Albers was selected. Albers submitted his concept in model form, which includes steel wrapped around rough-hewn log posts, with the end of the metal cut in the shape of Minnesota.

While the final design will be refined, the group intends to keep the overall look clean, with short and simple text.

“The signs are not intended for way-finding, so there will be no logos or slogans that might be out of date in the future,” said Bowman.

Seven locations are proposed for the gateway signs and were determined based on traffic counts of people entering the community in 2007, and projections through 2030.

While approval from landowners still need to be secured, and issues like zoning addressed, the tentative locations the group is looking at, in prioritized order, includes: 1. Near Hwy 210 west at exit 54 of I-94 at the Walmart Superstore; 2. County Road 82 near exit 61 of I-94 at Big Chief; 3. County Road 1 near Rusdic Circle; 4. Hwy. 210 east of town near County Road 29 past the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center; 5. Hwy. 210 near exit 57 of I-94; 6. County Road 1 near exit 55 of I-94; 7. County Road 88 north past the Otter Tail County Humane Society on the outskirts of town.

The total fundraising goal for all seven monuments is $150,000. The CVB and Chamber have committed to contribute $6,000 each. The CVB is organizing a mailing to businesses and an insert to be included with invoices sent out by the city.

“Our goal is to have the first monument up by June 30, and the others will follow based on fundraising success and other approvals,” said Bowman.

Bowman will be presenting an update on the gateway sign project at the City’s public works committee meeting on Jan. 30.

  • kathleenmae

    I was surprised when moving to Fergus Falls there were no such welcoming signs. All the small towns in this area have beautiful signs. It’s about time!

  • MinnAz

    Some towns have used materials such as bricks from demolished landmarks to fashion signs. I don’t know if Fergus Falls has anything like that, but it’s a thought if there is anything like that available. Not that I like to see landmarks torn down, but all too often it happens and when it does that is a great way to use some of it.

    • Richard Olson

      Lucille, we don’t have anything like that here. Our motto is “use and re-use, then re-use again”. That helps us keep out taxes down and spend more on our infrastructure, like roads. Perhaps you’ve noticed.

  • cyberdog

    What a great idea to have signage/sculpture for travelers to let them know this is Fergus Falls.

    However, the picture I saw in the Journal of a “sign” is horribly anarmature. What does a piece of metal wrapped around two fake tree stumps have to do with Fergus Falls? What does an outline of the Eastern part of Minnesota have to do with Fergus Falls? Its not suppose to be a Welcome to Minnesota sign.

    Fergus Falls was founded because of the Otter Tail River and “The Fergus Falls”. Cascading water through Fergus Falls on the Otter Tail River is what created our town.

  • MichaelJ

    “Since the City doesn’t have funds to do this”

    Then don’t do it. So this is so important to the residents that the city should fund raise $150,000? I think that’s ridiculous.

    The city has money but what are it’s priority’s?

  • Frizzel

    They could save some cash and reuse the sign from the old drive-in.

  • ff_convention_visitor_bureau

    Thanks for your interest. Let me repeat what is already stated…This is NOT a City project. It is not the City doing fundraising. It is an ad-hoc group of community members – funds will be raised privately from the generous donations of businesses and individuals.

    The model is conceptual and will certainly be refined before the final monuments are completed.

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