Virginia Welcomes You To Choose an Updated Look

Virginia Welcome Signs
Virginia Welcome Signs (Courtesy of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles)

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By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 24, 2005

Virginia pretty much blew it the first time a bunch of visitors came calling. When Capt. John Smith and his crew came ashore in 1607, there was no welcome party, nothing to drink and little to eat.

Virginia is hoping to be more welcoming as the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown founding nears: The state has launched a contest for a new highway welcome sign.

Aside from wanting to make a good impression on the visitors coming to the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown in 2007, state officials said there was another, equally critical, reason to ditch the old signs: People were making fun of them.

That crowd was led by Jimmy Barrett, host of a morning radio show for Richmond station WRVA, who said the old sign "looks like something my grandmother knitted in 1954." So Barrett launched an on-air attack against the signs, complete with negative campaign-style ads.

"We blame the old sign for everything that's happened wrong since the 1950s," Barrett said. "The Watergate scandal, the JFK scandal all have one thing in common: That welcome sign was there for all of it.

"We can do better," he vowed. "We can do better!"

Interested Virginians and visitors can vote for their favorite. Here are the options:

"Cardinal" depicts the state bird perched on a branch of American dogwood (state flower and state tree) against a white background. "Virginia" appears above the cardinal in big letters and "Welcomes You" is below it in much smaller type.

"Ship" features a tall ship like those that landed at Jamestown on the left side against a blue background. "Virginia" appears in large script on the right with "Welcomes You" in small type below it.

"Mountains" has "Virginia Welcomes You" stretching above a sun setting behind mountains fronted by water.

"Traditional" displays "Virginia Welcomes You" in big letters against a blue background.

"Dogwood" includes two large dogwood blossoms adorning most of this gold-colored sign, with the words "Virginia Welcomes You" above them.

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