If you exit Interstate 40 at the Mayflower, Arkansas exit and turn west, you will see a beautiful sign welcoming you to Mayflower. This sign was unvailed April 28, 2001. It was refurbished in 2010 by David Thompson and it now looks like a new sign.
Below is an article that was published in The Log Cabin at the time of the unveiling.
|MAYFLOWER — Those who had a hand in the construction of a new sign welcoming citizens into Mayflower hoped, privately and publicly, that the much-publicized structure would be more than a mere sign.
They wanted the stones, the wood, the waterfalls and the paint to mesh as a symbolic representation of a community that is galvanizing more and more by the day. They wanted the junction of highways 89 and 365 to acquire a kind of vitality that the once-vacant lot there did not suggest.
On Saturday, it seemed that all those wishes were granted.
Before a crowd of well over 100 citizens that lined the highway in anticipation of the revealing of the sign, Barbara Mathes, who led the fund-raising effort for the sign, and several other community members who were committed to the project gathered as the sheet that had covered the painted portion of the sign for days was removed and balloons were released into the air. Much of the crowd milled around after the unveiling to admire the sign and to exchange goodwill.
It was clearly a proud moment for Mrs. Mathes, who was honored in January as the Mayflower Citizen of the Year by the Mayflower Chamber of Commerce. She acknowledged that the award was attributed to her tremendously successful fund-raising campaign, but said in her speech to the crowd that she was far from being solely responsible.
“You are all Citizens of the Year,” she said. “It was all of you because all of you showed your love for Mayflower.”
The “love” they showed amounted to $11,296.02 in total donations — Mrs. Mathes said she wouldn’t leave those two cents off of the final total — and donated materials and labor from other Mayflower citizens. Mrs. Mathes extolled everyone involved with the creation of the sign for putting forth the time and energy to make it a reality.
The challenges and the triumphs
Originally, Mrs. Mathes recalled, the goal was to net $3,000. The promise she made to community members who donated money was that anything that went beyond that total would go toward the beautification of the rest of the property, and it is being designated for the additions of a gazebo, picnic tables and park benches, as well as greenery.
The first contribution was received on July 13. Mrs. Mathes, a Mayflower city employee, said she tried to make it difficult for customers paying their water bills to escape without making a donation.
“Not very many got out of there without (putting in a contribution),” she said.
By October, the pot had grown to just shy of $10,000, by $10.38 to be exact. To hit that magic number, Mrs. Mathes made that contribution. Nearly $1,300 would continue to flow in.
She had hoped to dedicate the sign in the fall, but Albert Smith, who carved and painted the wooden sign, was felled by a stroke before he could complete that portion. Upon recovery, however, Smith — who creates the entrance signs to Arkansas State Parks and has done work that has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution — finished the task.
The vibrant, six-foot by eight-foot painting of a familiar Mayflower scene — the sun setting over a fisherman in his boat on Lake Conway — is merely the centerpiece of the entire sign. It is surrounded by elaborate and detailed rock work, donated by Wes and Janie Howell, proprietors of Stones and Stonework in Mayflower.
Flowers bloom in a planter beneath the painting, and waterfalls flow from each side, courtesy of Mayflower citizen Lloyd “Buddy” Wilcox, who was instrumental in the creation of the sign.
Mrs. Mathes credited all of those contributors Saturday, saying Smith worked “diligently with us to get every little detail right,” and added that Wilcox was “the one who had the vision for (the sign) to become a reality.” The Howells were thanked for their efforts, and Michael Mosley, who donated the property, was also commended. The green space that is being cultivated around the sign was dedicated as “Mosley Corner” in his family’s honor. A plaque bearing the names of donors who put forth $100 or more is to be mounted on the back of the sign.
Mrs. Mathes spoke reverently of one of those special donors, District 43 Rep. Preston Scroggin of Vilonia, who chose to have his grandmother’s name inscribed on the plaque instead of his own. “What an honorable thing to do,” she said.
Mrs. Mathes also thanked her boss, Mayor Frank Pearce, for allowing her to spend time on the campaign to bring in the money. She said his generosity complemented that of so many citizens, including one employee who put her entire week’s paycheck into the coffers.
Saturday’s ceremony could certainly be described as a star-studded event, with political figures from the national all the way to the local level partaking in the festivities. U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder, a fixture at weekend activities in the 2nd Congressional District, was on hand for the big event. He spoke in glowing terms about the sign and the city it celebrates.
“The sign is beautiful,” he said. “It’s just a great day for Mayflower. And great communities deserve great signs.”
Snyder was one of a collection of current and former government officials who witnessed the awe-inspiring scene. Scroggin attended, along with former District 20 Sen. Stanley Russ, Faulkner County Judge John Wayne Carter, longtime Justice of the Peace Ann Harrell of Mayflower and a number of Mayflower officials, including Pearce and his predecessor as mayor, Linn Washam. The expressions of admiration about the sign and the turnout were strong and unanimous.
“It’s a nice sign,” said Mrs. Harrell. “I’m proud of it.”
Pearce added, “We’re just ecstatic at the turnout. We had good representation from the state, county and national level.”
As for Mrs. Mathes, her culmination address followed introductions from Deena Culberson of the Mayflower Chamber of Commerce, a musical prelude by the Mayflower High School band, a flag presentation by students from Little Rock Catholic High School and an invocation from Brent Clark. She beamed throughout the ceremony, and said after the event that things could not have gone better for her or the citizens on Saturday.
“Everything was right today,” she said, flashing that ever-present smile. “I’m just in Heaven. This is the closest place to Heaven, right here in Mayflower, Arkansas.”