"The Art of the Iditarod Sign Restoration"
February 2017

Back in the mid-1990’s the City of Wasilla commissioned artist and sign maker Bob Mills, who owns B. Original Signs at 5100N Wasilla-Fishhook Road in Wasilla, to design and fabricate a sign commemorating Wasilla as the site of the Iditarod restart.

The Iditarod Sign, consisting of three modified 4x8 sheets of plywood, was installed at the old Wasilla airport, which at that time was situated behind the present Valley Performing Arts theatre, in an area known as Iditapark (500 W. Nelson Avenue).

When the airport was moved, the Iditarod Sign was also moved, this time to the Chamber of Commerce building across the RR tracks at 415 Railroad Avenue (the old train depot).

Over the years the harsh Alaskan elements worked against the Iditarod Sign (the plywood warped and the paint faded and peeled), and it ended up in pieces, neglected, at the City of Wasilla Maintenance Building on Blind Nick Drive (off the Wasilla-Fishhook Rd).

Around the end of 2016, Lyn Carden, City of Wasilla Deputy Administrator (and also on the Centennial Celebration Committee), learned of the Iditarod Sign and enthused people to help to restore the Iditarod Sign for the 2017 Centennial Celebration Exhibit of Wasilla.

Back at the City of Wasilla Maintenance Building, Lynn Follett and crew cleaned, sanded, and structurally repaired the Iditarod Sign, but it was still in need of artistic restoration.

Randy Robinson, also on the Centennial Celebration Committee (and Valley Arts Alliance director), volunteered the Valley Arts Alliance to provide the artistic restoration. I took it from there, and over the course of several weeks, I restored the painting on the Iditarod Sign to new condition.

One small piece of the Iditarod Sign had become lost, the elevated portion of the “I” in Wasilla. So I contacted Bob Mills, who is still in business after 37 years, and he showed me the original drawing of the Iditarod Sign. Bob is now recreating that missing piece, so the Iditarod Sign will be complete. Look close, and you will see the ghosted image of Bob's sketch.

Now the Iditarod Sign will permanently be on display at the Dorothy Page Museum on Main Street in Wasilla. Bethany Buckingham, the museum curator, explained that the Iditarod Sign will be on display in the new museum extension.

I would like to find out even more about this Iditarod Sign. So if anyone remembers this Iditarod Sign, and has historic photos or information, please contact Make-A-Scene Magazine.