Forest Deason has made just about any kind of sign you can think of.
“I started in school painting mailboxes and hand lettering,” says Deason, 75, of Central City. “I’ve been painting for 55 years.”
Deason operated a full service sign shop for 36 years, offering “neon on down to billboards.” He retired 13 years ago.
He has since taken on the occasional volunteer job, including creating a large, traveling Muhlenberg sign, shown, to help encourage tourism in Muhlenberg County.
The sign, along with cutouts of the Big Twigs sculptures from Lake Malone State Park, adorned last year’s Muhlenberg County booth at the Kentucky State Fair. The booth won the Pride of the Counties Best Exhibit Award from the Kentucky Farm Bureau. The exhibit, by the tourism commissions for Greenville, Central City and Muhlenberg County, along with the Greater Muhlenberg Chamber of Commerce, was funded in part by the Felix E. Martin Jr. Foundation.
The artist behind the Big Twigs, Steve Brauch, lives in Sevierville, Tennessee, and the idea for the Muhlenberg sign came during a trip to see his work, Deason says.
Deason’s daughter, Misty Deason Stanley, serves on the Muhlenberg County Tourism Commission. She invited her dad along on the trip.
In Gatlinburg, they spotted a sign that would become the inspiration for the one shown here.
“On the way back, we started talking about it and doing research,” Deason says. With the limited funding available, the organizations couldn’t purchase the three Big Twigs and buy a sign.
“I said, ‘Well, I’m not really that busy, not anything to do,’” Deason says. “I told them I’ll build the sign if they’d buy the materials.”
Deason constructed the sign over the course of about eight weeks. It’s made of 16-gauge steel, which had to be cut out and welded. The sign is painted with the same type of paint used on cars, and it has a fiberglass finish, he says. The finish itself took two weeks.
All together, about 10-12 people volunteered on the project.
Following its appearance at the state fair, the traveling sign has been showcased at the Muhlenberg County Fair, area car shows, festivals, concerts and more.
“It’s all in memory of my wife,” Deason says. Theda Deason died in 2020. “She was a big part of the community.”
2023 Kentucky State Fair
Though there are no plans to display the Muhlenberg sign at this year’s state fair, lots of other activities are planned for 2023. The Kentucky State Fair kicks off August 17 and runs through August 27.
For more information on this year’s schedule, visit KyStateFair.org.