Submitted by Lions
The annual Noel sign is a San Juan Lions Club project, created well over a quarter-century ago and was updated this year.
The old Noel sign had seen its days. Over the years, the decoration had been damaged by rain, heat and wind, and needed to be replaced.
Town Administrator Duncan Wilson and Mayor Farhad Ghatan worried that an updated LED version would lose its nostalgic character. “The sign is a part of Friday Harbor history,” Wilson and Ghatan explained to Lion Jim Carroll. Their suggestion inspired the Lions to make the old sign new again.
Lions Brian Brown and Carroll dismantled the old Noel sign that has adorned the top of the town square every season. It was cut apart and carried down piece by piece, letter by letter, to Brown’s truck, and brought to his garage. He ordered new aluminum, then re-engineered an entirely new frame which should last at least another 25-30 years.
For years, the sign was placed atop the ferry terminal. In the late 90s, someone complained about it in a letter to Olympia. Washington State Ferries staff had the Lions remove it, as the sign was considered a religious symbol on a public building. The Lions moved Noel across the street to Friday’s Crabhouse that year, then later to the town square building, which is privately owned. The NOEL sign was placed high, for all to see, not only from the ground but when the ferry makes its final turn into Friday Harbor. The sign is the initial season’s greeting to Friday Harbor.
Brown donated his time and talents for the renovation. He used colored Christmas lights while Carroll donated the entire set of rope lights to outline the lettering. Once finished and rebuilt, it was time to bring the huge Noel sign back to town. Brown, and his son, Dan Brown, Chris Bateson and Carroll, transported the new 6-foot tall by 14-foot wide sign on a trailer and carried to the rooftop in the wee hours of the morning.
Dan Brown and Bateson were the Lions “go-to guys” to climb and bolt the sign together on a cold, icy rooftop on Nov. 13.
The final test to plug in the sign and light it for the season was a success. It may look the same as always, but the sign was recreated by the inspiration of Wilson and Ghatan and the time and talents of Brown.
The Lions helped to ensure a holiday memory from years past will remain for many more years to come. The Noel sign is just one of the Lions several civic activities. The organization’s motto “Where there is a need, there is a Lion” has rung true for over 101 years, including 57 years on San Juan Island, since 1961.