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Ryan Hanlon (right) and his dad, Jim, spearheaded the project in what he called his “old stomping ground.”
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David Boulds (left), alderman of Alton’s 7th Ward, tightens the sign as Jim Hanlon offers support.
ALTON — Ryan Hanlon was sitting at the intersection of East Broadway and Illinois 3 in Alton when he saw, well, a sign.
“I grew up on the east side of town there, off Milton Road, so that whole area, that big intersection is my old stomping ground,” Hanlon said. “We used to play down there before there was even a road down there.
“I come through that intersection on a weekly basis going to see my parents or coming up to Alton for business, and I’m just sitting there at that stoplight thinking to myself, we need a ‘Welcome to Alton’ sign on this end of town.”
So Hanlon, who owns the aptly named video production company Route 3 Films, went to work. He contacted Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau President Brett Stawar about the idea and volunteered to take the lead on the project. The pair later met with Alton Director of Development and Housing Greg Caffey and Public Works Director Bob Barnhart, and the idea became a reality.
Just as the sign represents the community, the process of getting the sign designed, created and installed was a collective effort. Hanlon came up with a design and worked with a friend to get the design digitized, and Godfrey’s Sign Magic was enlisted to make the roughly 4- by 5-foot sign.
Hanlon, through his company, also had connections with Phillips 66, and Community Relations Director Melissa Erker said the community-minded refinery was happy to split the cost with the Alton native.
“We want people to be proud when they enter their community, and we thought, ‘What a cool project,’” said Erker, who noted the refinery is nearing its 100th anniversary as a Riverbend business. “We’re very proud of where we are and the heritage that we have here. We want other people, when they come here … to understand that we’re proud of this community.”
“The next thing you know, I’m driving around Alton with this sign in the back of my truck,” Hanlon said.
The next step was getting it installed. The city’s Public Works Department, with the encouragement of 7th Ward Alderman David Boulds, provided two heavy-duty, black signposts, and on a sunny day in early July, Boulds and Hanlon’s dad, Jim, hung the sign at the intersection. The city will provide landscaping around the sign at a later date.
Alton Mayor Brant Walker thanked the Hanlons, the refinery and the city workers who helped make the sign a possibility.
“It’s a beautiful sign,” Walker said. “Any time we can do beautification projects in our city that are cohesive with everything else that we have planned, it’s wonderful.”
Walker said the sign also fits with the city’s “wayfinding” concept, in which all tourism-related signage is a consistent color and theme. Stawar, who said the CVB has been a huge advocate for the sign throughout the process, said his hope is to see similar signs placed at other entry points in the future.
“Hopefully this is just one of many more things that we can do for Alton, for the community, for the greater good,” Hanlon said.