By Alex Bridges
A new canoe-themed welcome signs greets Warren County visitors as they drive into Linden.
County officials held a ribbon cutting and dedication recently for the sign on Va. 55 (John Marshall Highway).
The sign, made of stone and concrete around a cinderblock base, features a canoe floating over cascading river rapids framed by trees behind it. As County Administrator Douglas Stanley explained in a news release, the sign ties together the Shenandoah River, the commerce it generates and the mountains and trees that surround the community.
Stanley recalled Friday that he and George McIntyre, co-owner of nearby Apple House Restaurant and Gift Shop, began talking about the need for a welcome sign greeting visitors coming into Linden. Stanley credited McIntyre for spurring on the project.
"I thought, 'don't want to do just a sign,'" Stanley said. "What about something that when people go by it, they'll remember?"
Stanley pointed out that the Linden exit off Interstate 66 serves as the primary tourist entrance for the community. It's the first exit motorists see on the highway directing them to Skyline Drive.
Local architect Fred Andreae designed the sign based on a concept Stanley devised that incorporated Warren County's designation as the canoe capital of Virginia. Local artist Michele Sommers painted the concrete to give the appearance of the canoe floating on water. Kym Crump of the Blue Ridge Arts Council recommended Sommers for the painting job.
John Gibson of the Downriver Canoe Company donated the canoe. Materials for the sign cost $6,700. The Parks and Recreation Department's maintenance crew and local jail inmates built the sign.
The Apple House Restaurant and Gift Shop provided the land easement to the county for the sign. McIntyre said Friday he's already seen the sign draw visitors.
"That greeting, frankly, has worked out just like I hoped it would," McIntyre said. "People are constantly in here, stopping, taking pictures of it, asking what's ahead."
Images of the popular, unusual welcome sign can now be distributed across social media, McIntyre said. Stanley recalled that McIntyre suggested that visitors who stop in the area could climb into the canoe to have their picture taken and post the image on social media sites, thus turning the sign into an interactive attraction.
"We're hoping it will stimulate business and, frankly, show them the nice community we have," McIntyre said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org