How Much Farther, and What’s the Right Answer?

www.holidaysigns-chester-va-viadaHow Do Highway Distance Signs Measure Mileage to Cities?

What a beautiful time of the year to be driving Virginia’s highways, especially in the mountains, as I was doing yesterday on Interstate 64 near Charlottesville. As always, I notice signs everywhere I go, and so do you, but you probably just don’t realize it because you’re not a sign blogger like me!  But if you own or manage a business, or are a customer out there looking for a store or hospital ER or church, or place to stay the night, or place to eat, or…the list goes on and on…then signage and its marketing value become important, and you are probably interested in it more than you know.

Most of the time I write about bright, custom electric signs that light up business names all over Virginia, but this time, I am answering a question I’ve had for years: “How do highway signs calculate the mileage to the cities listed?” became determined to see just how they come up with the posted mileages to cities. Is it to the city limits, some point in the center of town, or some other point? And also, is the distance measured from the sign location to that point, or from the point back from where you first see the sign? 

So I called the Director of Communications for VDOT for answers. The Director was out, but the Assistant Director, Shannon Marshall, was very eager to help. She said VDOT follows the federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), as published by the Federal Highway Administration, that states: “The distance displayed should be selected on a case-by-case basis by the jurisdiction that owns the road or by statewide policy. A well-defined central area or central business district should be used where one exists. In other cases, the layout of the community should be considered in relation to the highway being signed and the decision based on where it appears that most drivers would feel that they are in the center of the community in question.”  

She said, for instance, a courthouse or other central landmark may be used as the measuring point for distance. The rule is to round to the nearest mile.   

So I googled “MUTCD” and read Section 2D.41-42 about “Distance Signs” and found this statement and some other interesting facts about the sign design criteria of our highway distance signs:

  • Distance Signs shall be a horizontal rectangle of a size appropriate for the required legend, carrying the names of no more than three cities, towns, junctions, or other traffic generators.
  • The distance numerals shall be placed to the right of the destination names.
  • The distance displayed should be selected on a case-by-case basis by the jurisdiction that owns the road or by statewide policy. A well-defined central area or central business district should be used where one exists. In other cases, the layout of the community should be considered in relation to the highway being signed and the decision based on where it appears that most drivers would feel that they are in the center of the community in question.
  • The top name on the Distance Sign should be that of the next place on the route having a post office or a railroad station, a route number or name of an intersected highway, or any other significant geographical identity. The bottom name on the sign should be that of the next major destination or control city. If three destinations are displayed, the middle line should be used to indicate communities of general interest along the route or important route junctions.
  • The choice of names for the middle line may be varied on successive Distance Signs to give road users additional information concerning communities served by the route.
  • The control city should remain the same on all successive Distance Signs throughout the length of the route until that city is reached.
  • If more than one distant point may properly be designated, such as where the route divides at some distance ahead to serve two destinations of similar importance, and if these two destinations cannot appear on the same sign, the two names may be alternated on successive signs.
  • On a route continuing into another State, destinations in the adjacent State may be displayed.
  • If used, Distance Signs should be installed on important routes leaving municipalities and just beyond intersections of numbered routes in rural areas. If used, they should be placed just outside the municipal limits or at the edge of the built-up area if it extends beyond the limits.
  • Where overlapping routes separate a short distance from the municipal limits, the Distance Sign at the municipal limits should be omitted. The Distance Sign should be installed approximately 300 feet beyond the separation of the two routes.
  • Where, just outside of an incorporated municipality, two routes are concurrent and continue concurrently to the next incorporated municipality, the top name on the Distance Sign should be that of the place where the routes separate; the bottom name should be that of the city to which the greater part of the through traffic is destined.

I forgot to ask Shannon about where they begin measuring mileage from, but I would imagine it is at the spot at the base of the sign and not from where you first see it. So remember that when your child asks for the tenth time how much farther the trip is, it may be just a little bit farther than he can understand!


(Holiday Signs makes quality signage for basically any organization in need: Custom Electric Signs for hotels, restaurants, inns, amusement parks, convention centers, theaters, banks, credit unions, insurance agencies, car dealers, grocery stores, retail stores, shopping centers, office buildings, high-rise buildings, churches, hospitals, medical centers, schools, colleges, museums, and the list goes on!)

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Problems with Stucco Signs – How Mold Kills an Identity

October-Branding-Mold headerProblems with Stucco Signs – How Mold Kills an Identity

Does Virginia Have the Right Climate for Stucco Signs?

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   You work hard on designing and erecting a stucco monument sign to let the world know you exist on the street and then years down the road, mold and mildew show their ugly heads and blemish your corporate identity.  If you or a neighboring business has had battles with moldy stucco signs, it seems like there’s nothing you can do to prevent the annoying discoloration that takes away from your once beautiful branding signage.
   I regularly drive across Virginia and see examples of mold damage on many trips, usually on stucco finishes. In addition to stucco monument signs, the unsightly dark green, gray or black areas of discoloration sometimes show up on walls behind dimensional wall graphics and illuminated channel letters mounted on buildings as well, making unsightly images for the businesses.

   Stucco is one of the most common sign substrates falling victim to mold’s identity-killing power here in Virginia because of our humid climate. Stucco finishes are mildly porous and inherently provide lots of nooks and crannies for mold and mildew to grow.  There are many varieties of molds that can attack stucco if not maintained and moisture remains present on the surface for an extended time, and all of Virginia is susceptible to it. The more porous or textured the substrate, the more potential for moisture-retention that allows molds and mildew to form and cause identity problems.

   Most modern “stucco” components of exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) last a long time, and “stucco” finishes generally won’t reach the point of having noticeable mold and mildew issues for many years after installation. Stucco sign bases and backgrounds can be eye-catching components of environmental sign designs, and if mold should crop up at some point in time, it can be cleaned and treated by mixing 5 parts water and 1 part environmentally-friendly oxygen liquid bleach, putting on rubber gloves, spraying, scrubbing and rinsing the solution over the moldy areas until clean.
   That being said, aluminum signs make better long-term options for mold-resistant sign surfaces in Virginia and the Southeast. Metal is impervious to moisture, and Holiday Signs uses high-quality polyurethane coatings, the same as your automobile finish, to top-coat the metal panels.  Here are a few samples of how we incorporate painted aluminum signs into Virginia’s commercial landscape, making many long-lasting impressions across the Commonwealth:


Examples of Custom Painted Aluminum Sign Cabinets-Monument-Signs-VA





Contact: Mark Hackley

Account Manager, Holiday Signs


If you liked this, please read:

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How Do You Stand Out and Blend in at the Same Time?

October 2014- Branding- Our Approach to Selling Signs Part 3 headerOur Approach to Selling Signs

Part 3: Environment

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Environmental graphic design is a unique field within our industry – sign designers, landscapers, engineers, architects, welders, painters, masons, carpenters, installers – that collaborate to create amazing sign projects that work in generating business while blending in with the environment. Well-designed signs have the power to move people to appreciate a business and even change a person’s behavior. A person previously prone to passing a certain business is suddenly inspired to turn in!

So how do you stand out and blend in at the same time? Decisions, decisions…

It’s not too hard to stand out. I’ve met a few marketing consultants who are occasional fish-tie wearers when they need a gimmick to be remembered.  And we too have actually built a huge bass fish sign for a commercial client wanting to make a statement at the entrance to their development, so I’m not knocking the big fish idea. It’s just that generally speaking, most people aren’t so flashy and usually for good reason. The hard part is coming up with good sign solutions that blend corporate statements into surrounding environments.

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A business site has to secure a strong, competitive position in order to prevail. Your building location, and how you promote it, is crucial to the ultimate success of your business. Signs make lasting impressions that work; whether they are positive or negative is up to you.

You just can’t just throw any old sign system together and expect results. A sign purchase is important and should be well-planned. I recommend working with a reputable, established sign company whose project managers understand your unique site branding and advertising goals and the many variables working against you in reaching them.

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Here are some basic questions your sign consultant needs to ask specifically about your site:

  • What fits best with the building or neighborhood?

    Are elements of the building’s architecture reflected in signage design and embellishments?
        -Colors: Historic, Colonial, Architectural, Natural?
        -Building Materials: Brick, Stone, Concrete, Stucco, Painted Metal?
        -Pitch of roof: Flat, Peaked, Slanted, Domed?
        -Special Features: Columns, Quoins, Cornices, Window Design Elements

  • What fits best in both daytime and nighttime viewing? 

    What type of lighting will work best for consistent 24-hour branding?
        -Spot Lighting?
        -Day/Night Films?
        -Dimensional Letters and Shadowing Factors?
        -Reflective Films?
        -Back-Lighting Options?
        -Digital Signage Options?

  • What works throughout all seasons?
  • What does code recommend and allow?


Mark Hackley, Account Executive  (804) 796-9443

Society of Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)

Our Approach to Selling Signs, Part 1: Deciding What’s Right

Our Approach to Selling Signs, Part 2: Budget


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We Work In Your Town- Custom Signs in Fredericksburg,VA

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FREDERICKSBURG, VA…October 2014 we work in fredericksburg-map

Holiday Signs is Central Virginia’s premier custom electric sign company and, just in case you haven’t noticed, we work in your town too! We’ve been turning traffic into customers for over 40 years and look forward to the chance to help your organization attract attention in your part of Virginia.

October 2014 we work in fredericksburg footer


Mark Hackley, Account Executive

Holiday Signs  540-416-3154


Here are some stories about projects we’ve done around Fredericksburg and all over the Commonwealth of Virginia:




custom signs in fredericksburg VA / Northern Virginia/ Central Virginia/ Spotsylvania County





Virginia Independent Car Dealers Meet in NOVA



District 4 of the Virginia Independent Automobile Dealers Association (VIADA) gathered in Fredericksburg, VA, last night just as the Baltimore Orioles were losing their last American League Playoff game to the Kansas City Royals. The VIADA is organized with 8 chapters across Virginia, with state membership growing and nearing the 1,000 mark. Last year, the Northern Virginia District had the highest growth in membership of all the chapters.

Don Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Auto Trading, Inc. in Fredericksburg, is the President of the District 4 Chapter and he led the meeting where about 25-30 people met at Brock’s Riverside Grill in downtown Fredericksburg. The VIADA’s state President, Don Boucher, Jr., of Courtesy Auto Sales in Chesapeake, VA was present at the meeting along with past President and Chairman of the Board, Alvin Melendez, and VIADA’s Executive Director, Lois Keenan of Virginia Beach.


There are so many issues facing independent car dealers in Virginia, and the VIADA serves as a great resource for help with small business consulting and lobbying on behalf of the group’s best interests.  In last night’s meeting it was mentioned that the recent lowering of lending standards by US big banks should be a plus to the industry in that independent dealers can sell more vehicles. Not too long ago only loan applicants with Beacon Scores of greater than 700 were considered prime for credit, but now the bar has been dropped to credit scores as low as 620.

Although car dealers see this as a way to grow revenues after years of plateau sales, there are always two sides to every issue. Some are more critical about the ease in loans with single-digit interest rates now available to those with 620+ Beacon Scores, currently considered prime lending deals versus what were once sub-prime deals with double-digit rates. I’m all for better rates! Maybe I’ll go car shopping! I know a lot of good places to buy a used car in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Mark Hackley is an Account Executive at Holiday Signs, 540-416-3154




 Virginia Independent Car Dealers /Used Car Dealers in VA/

Signage for Car Lots/

Electronic Message Signs for Used car Dealers in Virginia


See Why Virginia Diner Switched Their Signs from Neon to LED

October 2014- General Signage- LED Retrofit- virginia diner HEADERREDUCING THE ELECTRIC BILL WHILE BOOSTING THE BRAND

CASE STUDY: Retrofitting the Neon to LED at Virginia Diner

October 2014- General Signage- LED Retrofit- virginia diner LONG LEGACY
   When the Governor recognizes a business in an official Proclamation, calling its 85th anniversary to the attention of all the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, you realize its significance and reputation. Such was the case with the legendary Virginia Diner of Wakefield, Virginia that recently celebrated 85 years of serving Virginians.
    “We read a Holiday Signs Newsletter which spoke of LED over neon,” said Christine Epperson, President of Virginia Diner. “It intrigued us enough to ask questions…particularly as we were going to have to replace some of the neon lettering which had stopped working,”she said.

   The diner utilizes a channel letter sign at the building’s storefront, and a two-sided pylon sign in the parking lot out on the main street with channel letters across the top.  Both were originally lighted with neon tubing, but the neon was very faded and partially out so we upgraded the lighting to LED, which provided a fresher look for their famous brand.


   “We take pride in and make an effort with the appearance of the building and grounds,” said Christine.  “The signage is a definite draw for our traveling guests, particularly at night.  If a building’s appearance is rough, it makes a customerOctober 2014- General Signage- LED Retrofit- virginia diner pic 2 question the care they will receive from within,” she said.

    The visual results after the upgrade are easy to see: “Both the road sign and the building sign are much brighter and crisper,” said Christine.

   She commented that had the signs not been repaired for their special 85th Anniversary celebration it would have been embarrassing! Plus the neon was causing many service calls that took time and money away from management to work on improving other aspects of the business. They liked the fact that LED was basically maintenance-free and used much less energy than neon, but it hasn’t been in use long enough to measure the exact power savings.


October 2014- General Signage- LED Retrofit- virginia diner Blog Blurb 1WHY CHANGE TO LED?
  Christine listed four reasons why Virginia Diner chose to replace their neon signs with LED, on which they are hoping to realize a return on the cost in 3 years:

1) No more expensive neon repairs and dealing with signage down time;
2) Less electricity cost;
3) Longer life of lighting components;
4) Friendlier for the environment.

  Since 1929, along what used to be a dusty highway in southeastern Virginia, the  Diner has been selling ham biscuits and Brunswick Stew to hungry travelers. Virginia Diner began as a refurbished railroad dining car and as its popularity increased, dining rooms were added.
  “Established in the heart of Virginia Peanut country, it was only natural that peanuts ended up on the Virginia Diner menu,” explains the Virginia Diner website. Today, Virginia Diner nuts and confections are available at fine retailers nationwide as well as on the internet. Known as “The Peanut Capital of the World”™, Virginia Diner is truly a “Legend in a Nutshell”™.  The new LED lighting recently installed in their branding signs will shine out their good name to customers for many years to come!

   “We set a deadline and were pushing Holiday Signs to help us have the signs ready before our anniversary. They were quick to respond, quick to get us a quote, and quick to get it all in place,” commented Christine about her experience with retrofitting neon to LED.

October 2014- General Signage- LED Retrofit- NEON-TO-LED-virginia diner last pic


 If you liked this Retailer Case Study, here are some more:














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What’s Wrong with this Picture? 5 Common Lettering Mistakes

www.holidaysigns-chester-va-common-lettering-mistakes-signage-FCO-wall-letters5 COMMON LETTERING MISTAKES

As I was walking to the grocery store a few days ago I noticed a sign with a special K, but not like the breakfast cereal that I was going to the store to purchase, special because at least one of its letters was wrong. Is it just because I design and sell signs that everywhere I go in Virginia I notice these things?

Notice the letter “K”. Now see below to identify the problem…

It got me thinking that I should post a blog about other common lettering mistakes I have seen, and you would be surprised by the level of brands I’ve come across with problems. We use the term “FCO” that stands for “flat cut out” for non-illuminated wall letters that don’t have fabricated and welded returns (we call letter edges “returns”). We manufacture flat cut out aluminum letters in-house on our own CNC router machine. Once the letters are designed, cut, and drilled for mounting studs, they are typically primed and painted. Pre-spaced patterns are made for the lettering and our skilled installers mount them according to approved design drawings, leaving little room for errors in misspelling, wrong fonts, or any of the other font problems shown here. Internally illuminated wall letters are called channel letters, and although I’ve never seen a fabricated channel letter with any of these mistakes, I guess anything is possible depending if you use Uncle Bob or a dependable custom electric sign company to do the sign job!

By the way, not only is the “K” special on the picture above, but so is the “A” and the “S”. See if you can identify 3 common errors within the space of 4 wall letters on one sign!


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 #2 and #3

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Another thing I’ve noticed with wall letters that could pose a negative branding issue is rust lines showing up below each hidden letter stud. This is a sign that steel studs were used by the installers. To prevent unsightly discoloration, always make sure your sign contractor uses aluminum or galvanized studs and architectural-grade clear silicone adhesive. Even though the studs are concealed behind the letters, it won’t take long for ugly corrosion lines to appear on the wall.


If you liked this, here are some more sign tips:






We Work in Your Town- Charlottesville, VA installing-tooCHARLOTTESVILLE, VA…October 2014-we work in charlottesville header

Holiday Signs is Central Virginia’s premier custom electric sign company and, just in case you haven’t noticed, we work in your town too! We’ve been turning traffic into customers for over 40 years and look forward to the chance to help your organization attract attention in your part of Virginia.



Mark Hackley, Account Executive

Holiday Signs  540-416-3154


Here are some stories about projects we’ve done around C-Ville and all over the Commonwealth of Virginia, “Go ‘Hoos!”:



Link to the UVA Football Schedule









Also serving nearby Albemarle County, Greene County, Orange County, Augusta County, Rockingham County, Madison County, Amherst County, Nelson County.  High Tech Sign Solutions for your business, church, or non-profit by Holiday Signs: Custom Digital Signs, LED Channel Letters, Electric Cabinet Signs, Pylons, Monuments, Brick, Stone, Office Signs, Signage for the University, Competitive bids, Corporate Branding and Wayfinding, Architectural Signage, Facilities Signage Systems, Retail Centers, Professional and Medical Centers, Charlottesville, Ruckersville, Gordonsville, Orange, Palmyra, Standardsville, Earlysville, Crozet, Waynesboro, Wintergreen, Nellysford, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, Culpeper, Warrenton, Lynchburg. Electronic Message Centers, Gas Station Signs, Convenience Stores, Interior Wayfinding, High Rise Signage, Interstate Signs, Museums, Displays, Plaques, Letters, all types of Building Signs, Commercial Lit Up Advertising, Everything you need to get noticed on your site or busy parcel of commercial property. Serving the mid Atlantic Signs for ALL. Service, Technical Support, Training for digital message signs: Daktronics, Watchfire, other brands.




People are often interested in seeing examples of our signage work around Virginia. In response, here is a list of printable PDF’s of some sign project case studies sorted by many of the industries we serve: Commercial Development, Financial, Hospitality, Not-for-Profit, General Retail, Healthcare & Retirement, and Education. (Just click on the PDF Icons of the articles you would like to read/print.)




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   Rockwood Square Shopping Center


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   Towne Center West


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   Brookhill Azalea Shopping Center



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   Dominion Enterprises


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   Luck Companies



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   Harper’s Mill Subdivision



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   City of Manassas


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   Roanoke Airport


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   Richmond Executive Airport



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   Redskins Training Facility


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   Ferrum College Hank Norton Center



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   Hotel John Marshall


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  Virginia Repertory Theater


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   Altria Theater



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   Capital Ale House


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   Augusta Health/Dominion Enterprises



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   Pioneer Bank


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   Franklin Federal


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   Connects Federal Credit Union



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   Burger Bach


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   Capital Ale House


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   Kings Dominion



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   New Life Community Church


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   Grace Church


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   Discovery United Methodist Church


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   Lifepoint Church


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   Operation Smile


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   Museum of the Confederacy



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    ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers


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   Puritan Cleaners


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   Green Top Sporting Goods


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   Floor & Decor


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   Mobility Supercenter



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   Augusta Health


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   Centra Health, Dawson Inn


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   Lucy Corr Village



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   Shenandoah University


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   Ferrum College




(All the above Virginia sign case studies and more signage stories are available on the Holiday Signs Blog.)

City of Manassas Variable Message Signs Now Operational


Municiple Messaging Signs Now in Operation, Manassas


   When customers like the City of Manassas trust you with providing over $300,000 worth of digital signage equipment that they will rely on as an important communications tool for many years to come, it reinforces your technical self-worth to know you are not just viewed as the low bidder.  Now that five gateway signs are operational sentinels for the City of Manassas, I thought I should write a follow up story to explain how they are working out for our customer.

  From all directions, the bright new electronic signs are creating a much more powerful buzz about the upcoming Fall Jubilee event than last year when they didn’t have the attention-getting variable message signs.

  “Our Fall Jubilee is this weekend and the new digital signs have helped us get the message out.  No one coming into or through the city can miss the signs saying “come to the Fall Jubilee,” commented Patty Prince, Public Affairs Specialist with the city.

manassas follow up blog blurbPatty said many people have expressed they are happy to see the signs operational. They just got this post from Facebook, “So great to see our city’s new electronic signs at the gateways to the city working and sending out the news about the Fall Jubilee!”

After the signs were turned on last month, she heard a Department Manager say he was impressed about what the signs could do graphically. Patty plays an important role in formulating and posting the messages and artwork. She will utilize the entrance signage as an ongoing communication platform to announce events and other notices like the Jubilee, adding a much deeper dimension to communicating just what’s going on around town.  

Literally loads of ground work went into providing the power and communications lines needed to operate the five variable message signs located in highway medians. But now that the signs are doing their job and messages are flowing, it’s all worth the wait.

In addition to Manassas, several other Virginia cities and towns either have or are considering digital messaging systems.  Holiday Signs is centrally near Richmond and serves municipalities in Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, and North Carolina with custom electric signage.  Municipal managers interested in seeking help from Holiday Signs on a sign project may reach out to Allen Twedt, Vice President, Sales.



Allen Twedt, VP Sales

(800) 229-9443


If you are interested in other signage projects, see these:



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Sign Permitting Question: What are the code allowances, restrictions, sign ordinances, permit requirements for electronic, digital, message centers in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Manassas, Fairfax, Winchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Fishersville, Augusta County, Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Ashland, Goochland, Chester, Colonial Heights, Petersburg, Williamsburg, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Washington, DC, Roanoke Rapids, Baltimore, Laurel, Beltsville, Virginia, Maryland?  Call us for answers!