Grand Marais—If you turn uphill at the North House Folk School on the old Gunflint Trail, you’ll encounter a series of four signs, with a different message on each side. “Enjoy our lovely,” reads the first one. “Grand Marais,” says the second. The third proclaims, “but try to keep,” finishing with “six feet away” on the fourth. The sequential signs, modeled after the historic Burma Shave highway advertising, deliver the message to be mindful of social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in a fun and cheerful way. And that’s the point.
“I’m a science writer and get to see a lot of good information on the novel coronavirus,” said Anne Brataas. “What was missing in town was a visual impact about social distancing.”
She discussed her thoughts with her husband, Charles “Chico” Hathaway, who has a sure hand with a paint brush and a gift for coming up with fun jingles. As the sign idea began to take shape, they talked with their landlord, Gordon Lindquist, who had a supply of wood. He got to work planing signboards. And Hathaway got out his paints. The project was underway.
“It was fairly labor-intensive,” Hathaway said. “It took the better part of the day to paint both sides of eight signs.”
They planted the signs on Lindquist’s property on the old Gunflint Trail. The signs were quickly noticed.
“We’ve had quite a few comments,” Lindquist said. “People are glad we’re doing it.”
The informal team of sign-makers wants to spread their message, especially in places where it will reach visitors. They’ve found one new location on Highway 61 entering Grand Marais and are considering ways to mass-produce signs and make them more widely available to others who want to display them.
Anyone who would like to participate in spreading the message can contact Brataas by email: email@example.com.