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Volunteers raise 1991 sign depicting North Fork bounty

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Photo courtesy Jeff Skeels From left, Thomas Hoke of Wisconsin and local residents Jeff Skeels, Steve Allyn, Brian Maul and Shannon Richardson volunteered to re-hang the large sign hanging along Highway 133 outside of Paonia last June in time for Cherry D

An eye-catching sign depicting Paonia and its bountiful harvest and beautiful views is finding new life, thanks to a few volunteers, a tractor, and a little bit of community service.

This summer, Crawford resident and Rotary Club of the North Fork member Jeff Skeels decided to check out a hand-painted sign hanging sloppily near the road along Highway 133 near Paonia. Located on private property just above Paonia High School the sign welcomes passers-by to take the next right into Paonia. It's also dated 1991 and signed by former Paonia resident, artist and herbalist Paula Lawley.

Sometime in the last few years it became partially detached and was hanging lopsided from its support system. Skeels saw it as a good service project. With Cherry Days approaching, he set a goal of having it up before July 4. He got permission to enter the property and fix the sign, and a relative attempted a temporary fix, but that only lasted a couple of weeks.

Skeels put up $250 up for hardware and materials to stabilize the sign and pitched it at a weekly Rotary meeting. Rotarian John Coombs of Ollie's Ice Cream matched it.

Skeels got the necessary hardware at Dependable Lumber and he and a friend from Wisconsin prepared it for hanging. But when they tried to hoist it up, it was too heavy.

Cousin Steve Allyn, Brian Maul and Shannon Richardson all joined in, and it was still too heavy, said Skeels. Allyn went home and got his tractor to do the lifting, and less than a week before Cherry Days, it was back up where it belonged. A patch of vegetation growing below the highway was also removed, allowing a full view of the colorful sign.

That is just phase one of the project, said Skeels. The sign needs to be preserved, and the paint either touched up or re-done. Because everyone volunteered their time and resources, the budget for phase one of the project was $80. That leaves $420 to allocate toward paint, said Skeels.

Photo courtesy Jeff Skeels Paonia artist Shannon Richardson steadies the sign before it’s hoisted up by the tractor. Richardson was one of five volunteers who helped to re-hang the sign this summer.
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