Rocky Mount has a new LOVE, and it’s in the shape of moonshine still, a tractor tire, a guitar and microphone and railroad ties.
It’s the new LOVE sign in Citizen’s Square in downtown Rocky Mount in front of the Farmers’ Market.
The town unveiled the new sign with a public celebration, which more than 100 community residents and officials attended Tuesday evening. Rocky Mount Burger Company, Bojangles and the Kupkakery served refreshments, and a raffle was held.
LoveWorks signs are an initiative of the Virginia Tourism Corporation and have become popular spots for tourists to take pictures commemorating their visits to communities. Each community has a different LOVE sign with local flair, demonstrating elements of history, culture, heritage and community pride.
Rocky Mount officials wanted the town’s sign to celebrate elements of Franklin County, as well as the town. Town Planner Jessica Heckman said former Town Planner Josh Gibson designed the sign more than three years ago. During the process, the design of the “O” and “V” were changed.
“We decided to play on the agricultural roots of the area and pulled in the Harvester with the ‘V,’” she said. “The microphone and the guitar made the perfect ‘V.’”
The “L” features a moonshine still, the “O” is a giant tractor tire and the “E” is made from railroad ties.
Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins said moonshine heritage is a key element in the area as is the railroad, as there were two railroads through town when the town first formed.
While Gibson was no longer the town planner, Heckman said he still worked up the sketches of the LOVE sign.
“He didn’t want credit, but he deserves it,” Heckman said. “He was very much a part of this.”
Hankins said the Economic Development Authority and Planning Commission had an “instrumental part in putting together the artwork and making sure that we got things representative of the community.”
The sign was the collective building effort of many, including Philip Hash Masonry, Elite Iron Works, Indigo Signs, Tracy Tatum and Creative Curbs Inc.
The project was funded in part by a $1,500 VTC grant, while the remaining funds came from Rocky Mount’s tourism and branding budget funded by the local lodging tax. The total cost of the sign was just over $4,840.
The sign is part of the town’s larger public arts initiative, which includes statues, murals, barn quilts, drain paintings and other artistic expressions. Hankins said more artwork is slated for later this year and early next year, including murals on drain covers and trash cans.
Hankins also encouraged artists interested in beautifying the town to step up.
“If you are an artist and you want to do a mural come to the Town of Rocky Mount, we have some blank canvases that we have some ideas for,” he said. “We want to show (visitors) a community that is vibrant and thriving. We want people to see more than just the Harvester while they are here or more than just a restaurant; we them to see some color and the rich tapestry of our community.”
Those who post photos of the LOVE sign are encouraged to use hashtags #rockymountva and #LoveVa to ensure that Rocky Mount gets recognized on social media. Becky Nave, a destination development specialist with VTC who also attended the unveiling of the sign, said when the LoveWorks sign campaign started in 2013, 16 signs popped up. Today, she said, there are more than 150 across the state.