I have always been a visual person. By that I mean, I have a tendency to observe, well, everything. My wife was fond of saying that I had the world’s largest collection of minutia. She may have been right.
I tend to notice the things we pass every day without really paying any attention to, or even acknowledging the presence of. Things like signs. Any sign. They are my anchor to the world that surrounds me. They are the identity of a town, a community, or a street. They are the businesses that want to let you know they are there. They are the people that want you to see their environment. Signs are the place markers that provide a sense of stability to our surroundings. A reminder that everything is not temporary. Some things have been and will be around for a long time.
It was with this in mind that I started to pay a little more attention to town signs. Not so much attention, but rather, how they either welcomed me or just let me know where I was. Some made me want to enter a town. Welcomed me even. Not just words, but a feeling. So, I started collecting pictures of some that I had the fortune to pass. Not all of them jumped out at me, but they all caught my eye for one reason or another.
Kittery is the first town that you pass through upon entering Maine from New Hampshire, and I thought it really did say welcome. Sitting next to a peaceful harbor, it has a warm feeling and, it gives you a little preview of what the state has to offer.
Wells is just a little further up the pike. I can’t say this one really grabbed me, but again, if my destination were in fact Wells, I would feel good about my arrival.
Freeport kind of said historic Maine. Old homes, mature trees, and a vibe that made you want to get out of your car and walk around. The word explore comes to mind.
Windham is one town over from where I live and was probably one of my least favorites. To be fair, it is not a tourist town, so the sign does what it is supposed to do. If you’re looking for Windham, it makes sure you don’t miss it.
Camden on the other hand is big time tourist. A beautiful harbor, shops, B&B’s, and cafe’s. You can bike, hike, sail, and shop, all in a rustic setting. Their sign kind of said rustic to me.
Kennebunk is another location that welcomes you with a theme, setting you up for expectations of boats and shops and wonderful seafood restaurants, and it doesn’t disappoint.
I think you get the idea. There is a lot to be said for a sign. It is more then just a symbol, marking a location, it is an introduction to a location, that if done right, makes you want to know more. So, that is why I saved the sign for my own town, Gray Maine for last. It is a pretty sign, and unto itself, is quite attractive. Now I know that we are not a tourist town. In fact our claim to fame is that if you are heading up into the heart of Maine to hunt, fish, hike, ski, shop, or just explore, you will probably go through Gray, and maybe stop at Dunkin’s. So we don’t really have a theme beyond “At The Heart Of It All”, which I guess kind of sums it up. But I also think that, beyond the physical sign, aesthetics play a big role in establishing a mental picture of a town.
So, I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think we went a little overboard on our ‘Heart’ theme thing by placing our sign in front of a cemetery. However, It apparently worked for me. I did come here to retire.