It took months of effort to undo the damage done by decades of downpours and snowstorms, but thanks to the talents of students and staff at Loring Job Corps, a great source of community pride has now been returned.
The signs that welcome visitors and residents alike to Friendly Fort Fairfield were recently reinstalled after undergoing a complete and total overhaul. A brief dedication ceremony was held on Thursday morning, June 2nd, to thank all those who played a role in the project.
The four weather-worn ‘Welcome to Fort Fairfield’ signs were removed from their posts at the major gateways to Fort Fairfield late last fall and delivered to the Loring Job Corps facility where they were inspected by students.
“The signs were pretty beat,” explained James Hayes, an instructor with the Home Builders Institute who teaches carpentry students at Loring Job Corps. “Having been born and raised in Fort Fairfield, I knew what they meant to the community when they were first installed, but time and Mother Nature certainly had not been kind to them. We jumped at the chance to tackle the rehabilitation project when we were approached to do the work because we knew it would be a great chance to teach the students some new skills and do a project that would have a tremendous, visible impact on the community.”
Throughout the winter, students carefully recreated the white picket fences that serve as the backdrop for the signs. They sanded away years’ worth of moss, dirt and debris that built up on the hand carved oval signs. They cut new accent boards. They made brand new, hand painted signs to acknowledge the service organizations which purchased the original signs. They finished by sanding and painting all the surfaces, completely refurbishing the signs, and making them ready to weather several more seasons standing sentry at the entrances to Fort Fairfield.
“This has been a great, collaborative project between our community and the students at Loring Job Corps,” stated Tim Goff, Executive Director of the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce which spearheaded the project. “We were able to bring our service organizations together to fund the work, providing all the materials the students needed, and the project provided them with something different to work on during the winter months. And because of the unique nature of the project, the students learned some valuable work skills, developed a connection to our community and helped restore this source of community pride.”
Refurbishing the old signs cost considerably less than replacing them with something new. The four service organizations which purchased the original signs; The Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, Fort Fairfield Lions Club, The Knights of Columbus Council #1753 and the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club, evenly shared the cost of materials. Fort Fairfield’s Public Works Department provided assistance removing the signs, transporting them and rehanging them once they were complete.
While the work on the signs themselves is done, there is one remaining component of the project that will soon be completed. The Fort Fairfield Arbor Committee will be planting new ornamental shrubs and other plantings to further accent the appearance of the signs.
“It’s great to see Fort Fairfield taking pride in our community and upgrading the ‘Welcome to Fort Fairfield’ signs coming into town!” exclaimed Bob Dorsey, a member of the Lions Club, echoing the sentiments of many townspeople.