For many travellers Green River has always been a point on the way to another destination. But today with I-70 bypassing Main Street and gas stations on the edge of town, thousands of people “visit” our town each day without ever seeing the community that exists between exits 160 and 164. In 2014, we counted the number of daily cars that stop at gas stations on the exits, then counted the number that went into town instead of getting right back on the interstate. We found that 65% of interstate travellers that stop in “Green River” never actually come into town. As a part of Epicenter’s mission to bolster economic development and facilitate community pride, we have started to leave “breadcrumbs” for drivers to draw them into the town’s core.
With this in mind, designer Lisa Ward proposed to refurbish old and create new neon and lighted signs along Green River’s Main Street. Ward proposed 10 different designs to the community and ultimately two were selected: a new neon welcome sign for the west side of town and a new neon artwork on the west side of the Coffee Shop. In addition to leading visitors to town to patronize local businesses, the sign builds on Green River’s classic neon signs and celebrates the local landscape. The design was created with the help of Green River High School students who were tasked with drawing their own signs, many of which were similar to the final design depicting Gunnison Butte. This welcome sign has already become a point of pride for local residents and a popular attraction for visitors.
The neon sign on the side of Green River Coffee Company features a quote from Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, reclaiming our town's isolation as a point of pride and source of inspiration. Both signs were unveiled at an event called Ignite the Nite hosted by Epicenter and the City of Green River at the city safety building on Broadway. Ward and fellow artist Marisa Frantz put on a pyrotechnics show to kick off the event, culminating in the lighting of a bonfire in front of the firehouse. Inside, Clive Romney of Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts, with Hank Mason and Jana Wells of Grand Junction performed original songs of Utah’s rural heritage, pioneers, and folktales; local residents contributed chili, hot cocoa, and their voices to the sing-alongs.