New Burdett welcome signs honor tradition
Looking for a sign--practically and philosophically--it's a way to know where you are, what "here" means and where you're going. The new signs at each entry to the village of Burdett are compact and colorful, but they say and mean more than meets the eye.
According to Burdett Mayor Dale Walter, the "Welcome to Burdett" signs at each end of the village not only tell people but also welcome travelers to "a village that cares. I think they help attract people to stop at local businesses, so that's a real impact," he says.
For many years, the "Welcome to Burdett" signs were homemade, heartfelt and elegant. Designed by the late Roseanne Armstrong, an award-winning artist and student of Native American wisdom, its subtle designs and original color concept were intended to pay homage to the area's Native American heritage. They were carefully sculpted by wood artist Per Navestad and a decision was made at the time to paint them in light colors for visibility. The yellow and white of the former signs also honored the Burdett Ladies' Wednesday Afternoon Club, who sponsored the original signs in 1998. But the pale colors also made the design elements more difficult to see.
After nearly a quarter of a century, despite regular refurbishment, the wood underneath the paint deteriorated. This was noted by Roseanne's husband John Gormley in a letter to the village offering to assist with needed repair work. He also talked about Roseanne's original color concept and asked the village if they'd consider using it.
This past spring, after members of the village board inspected the signs and determined replacement was a better option than repair, they decided to continue Roseanne's beautiful gift and go with her original design and colors. "The other signs had been through their life cycle," says Walter. "We have a capital reserve fund for the park, and in our street budget. We saved up for it for five or six years and the letter from Mr. Gormley brought it to the forefront. We said we're going to make it happen and I'm happy we did this."
Three signs were commissioned from Jeremy Hogan of JH designs in Elmira. Hogan has made numerous signs for area businesses and, as it happens, is the new owner of property in Burdett. They were placed at each end of the village, waiting until crops were in before disturbing plantings at the village's east and west ends. Hogan also took care of the installation, using sturdy, weatherproof columns to anchor the new signs. The third sign graces a playground created for village children at the corner of Church and Barnum Streets and was the site of the official sign dedication on Saturday, Nov. 12. Spruced up with a layer of fresh wood-chips, the playground looked new, despite being about 15 years old. The former homemade swing sets were replaced with more colorful equipment and made ADA accessible.
Gormley and Roseanne's son Mark with his wife Diane were among those on hand to participate in the dedication. Gormley explained the meanings of Native American symbols incorporated into the sign. Cloud-like scallops at the top remind the viewer of the Great Spirit; geometric designs further down represent wampum and the four directions. Mark said he was particularly glad to see his mother's legacy would continue. The design had "so much good energy, as mom would say," he said.
"And Mr. Navestad did a wonderful job on the original signs," trustee Linda Arcangeli noted. "We kept the old signs." The board is hoping at least one can be repaired and displayed near the village office.
It should be noted, the playground where the dedication was held, was itself a gift to the community from local philanthropist Nelson Warren in 1958. "I remember there were rodeos held here when I was a child," said village trustee and Burdett historian Marty Evans. In a short presentation, she talked about the history of the signs and recognized several members of the [now-renamed] Ladies' Wednesday Afternoon Club present for the dedication. Like the signs, the playground is a source of civic pride. And as happens in small communities, the history of the Wednesday Afternoon Club is intertwined with the life of the village.
"I'm happy we did it," Walter says. "A lot of people have commented on the signs, saying how nice they look. We're not a large village but we take pride in where we live."