Relight The Night - Save Our Signs
On June 20, 2012, the Historic Old Town Pocatello Foundation announced a symbolic new initiative that blends several interests and passions together into one bright, shiny package dubbed "Relight the Night." Downtown enjoys many glowing traditions including an awesome collection of vintage signs. These artistic lights of the night once rivaled those of any city.
However, bit by shining bit, Old Town's beckoning signs have begun to fade into darkness and despair--a stark contrast to the signs of vitality and life so evident in Old Town's many eclectic and artistic events and businesses. The Relight the Night Initiative intends to reverse the deterioration of these community icons--rescuing and restoring these landmarks--large or small--one by one to their former brilliance and glory as jewels of Pocatello's city center.
This restoration initiative/campaign will require what its leaders call "a perfect storm of collaboration,” a community of givers who are passionate about their unique sense of place and a business district willing to create an even more attractive and distinctive destination. This collaborative storm will be accompanied by "SOS (Save Our Signs) alerts" inviting community members and organizations to come to the rescue of a struggling sign.
WHY CARE ABOUT SIGNS?
Signs are essentially social--they identify, promote, inform, and advertise. They direct and decorate. In short, they communicate with their viewers. Signs don't merely advertise, they often possess value in and of themselves. Some become loved simply because of their visibility from a certain street corner or even from a vantage point across town. They create the "magic of the night" and add a burst of color to even the greyest of days!
Yet, historic signs pose problems for those who would save them. On occasion, downtown buildings are sadly reduced to ashes or rubble--leaving their signs essentially "homeless." Or, new business owners and uses may naturally endanger signs as they seek a "new image" rather than one from a by-gone day. These treasures of chasing light bulbs and flickering neon were originally crafted of the finest materials which nowadays can be prohibitively expensive to maintain.
Happily, some downtown signs are treasured and capably maintained by their property owners: Pocatello Electric, Key Bank, The Whitman, Molinelli’s Jewelers, Bangs Office Products, Greyhound Bus Depot, for example. Others, for monetary reasons, experience the misfortune of peeling, rusting, and languishing away--both in storage yards and on the buildings they grace but definitely not as in their glory days.
Fortunately many of these historic signs call out to the "greater community"--they are signatures from the past and reminders of beloved events, places, and people. Such signs allow the past to speak to the present in ways that buildings by themselves cannot. They give continuity to public spaces and become part of the community memory. With so much expense and expertise needed for their rescue, many of Pocatello's signs will require full community involvement and that's why the Relight the Night Initiative came into being.
Under Randy Dixon's chairmanship, like-minded organizers are compiling a growing list of "Signs of Interest" that may need a full rescue or maybe just a bit of resuscitation. Some on the list no longer (or in some cases never did) reside/exist downtown--yet they lit up Pocatello's night skies for decades.
The first sign to be targeted for renovation was the historic Chief Theater sign. This is perhaps the most recognizable and most famous of all the downtown neon signs. Many treasured memories were created at The Chief Theater, from first dates, first kisses and even proposals, many a past and present Pocatello resident has a story to share. The Chief hung over Main Street from 1938 to 1993, when the Chief Theater burned to the ground. It was a community effort to rehabilitate the theater, which was completed just prior to the fire. Only two pieces of the theater were saved, the tile mosaic from the entryway and the sign. The mosaic was first to be restored and now sits at the site of the theater. The Chief sign, now completely renovated stands 50’ tall and brightly shines every night on Main Street. A special thank you to all of the donors who made the sign renovation possible!
The signature fund raising event for Relight The Night is the Annual Neon Street Dance. Located on the 200-300 blocks of East Center Street on the first Saturday in August each year, the event includes live music, great food and fun for the entire family! Plan to join us on Saturday, August 1, 2020 from 5pm to Midnight. Admission is free, but donations are welcome!
Old Town Pocatello, Inc.
420 N Main St
Pocatello, ID 83204
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First Friday Art Walk
The April First Friday Art Walk has been postponed to May 1. The May First Friday Art Walk will be held in locations throughout Old Town on Friday, May 1. The festivities will begin at 5pm and will include local and regional art, live music, food, fashion and more. Plan now to come stroll through Old Town and enjoy the charm of our monthly Art Walk!
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