“Welcome to Colorful Colorado,” the big, wooden signs at Colorado’s borders tell travelers.
For selfie snappers, change that to “Welcome, but…”
Travelers are now being asked to head to the nearest visitor center where they can safely pose under a replica stateline sign: same rustic, big, brown ‘welcome’ hung from log frames exactly as it they have been since the 1950s. Only, the selfie-era replicas are just a little taller to better accommodate posing. And they are located far from speeding vehicles, as well as miles from the real thing at the borders.
The photo-op sign additions were celebrated Tuesday at the Colorado Welcome Center in Fruita, 19 miles from the Utah/Colorado border on Interstate 70 – the third busiest crossing into Colorado. A drape was ceremonially removed from the replica sign to “oohs” and applause, even though the sign had actually been a poser’s delight since it went up about a month ago.
Another sign has already been installed at another of the state’s busiest crossings, at the Burlington welcome center on the Colorado border with Kansas, and a third will soon be erected at Julesburg to welcome the scads of visitors coming in from Nebraska.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has plans to eventually have the faux non-roadside signs all over the place; at visitors’ centers near many state-line crossings, including north of Fort Collins, outside Dinosaur, near Cortez and adjacent to Lamar.
The photo-friendly signs are the joint brainchild of CDOT and the Colorado Tourism Office which is paying for the signs.
The primary goal is safety. Travelers have long been pulling over at the retro-looking welcome signs that resemble some rustic marker that might hang outside a summer camp.
“Those signs are really cool and iconic,” CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said. “But it makes highway workers’ skin crawl whenever they see people standing out there with traffic whizzing by at 75 miles per hour.”
Post your (safe) selfie
Safety may be the primary goal – a proactive one given that there haven’t been any sign-selfie accidents recorded. The other reason has to do with tourist dollars.
If selfie snappers follow directions and stop at visitors’ centers to pose under the replica signs, it is hoped they will ask questions, get the lowdown on local attractions, and drop some cash at those places.
In Fruita, it has worked that way – sort of.
Cindy Wilkinson, the assistant manager of the welcome center there, said the replica sign has been a hot attraction even though it is located behind the center near a water-refill and dump station.
“It has been really, really popular,” she said. “We have had people taking pictures of people taking pictures of people taking pictures with the sign.”
Some have come into the center to ask about local places to visit. More simply visit the restrooms and get back on the road after grabbing their sign selfies.
No one has complained about the faux-border-sign photo op being akin to taking a selfie with a cardboard cutout of John Elway or a postcard of Pikes Peak rather than grinning or smoochy-lipping in front of the real things.
Complaints like that won’t get them anywhere anyway; other signs are being posted near the real welcome signs warning travelers that stopping at the signs is prohibited. Ignoring that could result in a traffic infraction.
“CDOT totally understands that people want to stop,” Wilson said. “The signs are cool, but we just need to make things safer.”