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It's All About the Signs!

Words. Important phrases. Directions. Friendly helpers. Teasers. Identification. Clues. All these uses for words put together or standing alone. In yards. Of stained glass. In fabrics. On highways. Caution. Wait. Stop. Suddenly here in Chester signs are very, very important.

There are these two special bridges just south of town that funnel traffic north and south, especially the tourists, and they have simply been broken. Now they are being fixed - from May 20 to July 17. That's not really too long, is it? It is a unique situation since Chester is at the crossroads of New England. But every business, especially those south of town, has been impacted. Everyone has bright ideas on how to fix it. Everyone has an experience or story to tell that strikes a negative cord. The girls here (and a few boys too) love visitors. They are beginning to take afternoon naps with Silvio, our mascot, and move around from seat to seat just to create excitement.

My most important sign is the carved and stained glass that identifies my business in my yard. Given it is in need of an uplift, but years ago Karen Savage made us two stained glass creations of Andro, our logo. Our little hanging sign tells a passerby that we are "on the web," and we soar in those visitors. Then there is a worn and frazzled Open Flag that tells one that "Yes, we are here when the flag flies." Banners that say Gallery Entrance indicate hospitality. And Andro herself beckons folks into our three-room gallery.

Our visitorship is not measured by driveways full of cars. Ours is measured by the experience of coming to meet the doll maker and her creations face to face in small by mighty numbers. This is not the 1980's when my dolls were $40, and the local inns all sent visitors who sought a real Vermont-made doll. This year first big occasion for significant visitors is the Vermont Crafts Council Open Studio Weekend. Okay, we were down in numbers of visitors, but not orders. Little Burma Shave-like signs saying, "Sheep grazing." "Cats crossing." Turtles racing." Beware of bears." -- all these words connected the visitor to the motif-eyed dolls during their visit, and I enjoyed telling the stories of how they were created.

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Nonetheless, it is quiet in Chester. Some creative businesses have devised a

scavenger hunt for the stores on Route 103--fifteen both north and south, very much affected by the bridgework. Little green triangles with numbers correspond to a leaflet. Finding the doll here in the gallery with the clue will gain a visitor a stamp and a chance at $400 in sweet prizes on July 23d at a celebration when famous Bridges 8 and 9 are open, safe and beautiful. Obey the signs. And as simple as they are, look for the fifteen triangles and come visit anytime.

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