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A Century Later, Bristol Sign A Timeless Icon

February 23, 2010

The historic Bristol sign, a glowing bridge that has served as a visible icon of a city separated by geography, but united in spirit, turns 100 this year. A committee of local residents and business professionals has planned to celebrate and commemorate the sign’s century mark with city-wide events and activities that will take place in April.

According to Tim Buchanan, Chairman of the Bristol Slogan Sign Centennial Committee, the Bristol sign is a unique treasure to the city, and is one of the most significant promotional signs of its type in the nation. It is considered one of the earliest and largest electric signs promoting a nearly ninety year old city slogan. In itself the slogan is paramount to the history of the Twin-Cities. This tagline has neither gone out of style with the years nor has there been any consideration within the city to make any changes to it.

“The events we have planned will be a fitting tribute to the importance of the sign to our cities, and will appeal to a wide-variety of residents,” he said. Buchanan explained that events will be ongoing through July, with the bulk of the activities taking place on April 30 at various locations downtown, including a gala reception at the Train Station, a musical variety show at the Paramount and a photo contest and art exhibit.

“On April 30, as dusk falls, the public is invited to attend a rededication of the Bristol sign, and imagine what it must have been like when the switch was flipped for the first time, bathing State Street in the glow from the light of over 1000 bulbs,” said Buchanan.

Other events will include public presentations and workshops from Tom Swormstedt from the American Sign Museum, and John Rose, the official artist of cartoon character “Snuffy Smith,” one of the longest-running comic strips in history.

Primary sponsors for the Bristol Sign Centennial celebration include Bristol Tennessee Essential Services and Bristol Virginia Utilities.

“Each year, Bristol Tennessee Essential Services and Bristol Virginia Utilities take turns relamping the 1,322 light bulbs in the sign as part of the cities’ Street Lighting Program,” said Mike Browder, CEO of Bristol Tennessee Essential Services. “But it is the responsibility of both cities to keep the sign in good repair,” he added.

Bristol artist, Sheryl Theriault, has created an original painting of the sign, which will be available for sale as commemorative posters, and signed and numbered artist’s proofs. In addition to the guitar, Theriault has created works of art based on other Bristol landmarks, such as the Bristol guitar and the train station.

Buchanan noted that historic pictures of the Bristol sign will be displayed at the April 30 event. Individuals with sign photos, renderings or any image bearing the first slogan, “Push, That’s Bristol” are invited to loan them for the event by dropping them off at the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, 20 Volunteer Parkway, Bristol, TN.