Yesterday's Sign Park Embellishes Wisconsin Town

Retired signmaker installs restored signs that recall city's former shops
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My father, Dean Blazek, has lived all of his 82 years in the north-central Wisconsin town of Antigo. Like small towns across America, many of Antigo’s businesses have migrated from the city center to the beltlines. In an effort to bring attention and visitors back into downtown, Dean recently purchased a vacant block at the intersection of Clermont and 5th Avenues and has created Yesterday’s Sign Park.
“I am very fond of this little town, and I wanted to give back to the community that has supported me,” Dean explained. “This block of land on the main street had been unused since the David’s Clothiers building was destroyed by fire about five years ago.”
The adjacent property had a common wall and Dean was granted permission to hang signs from it. He said, “I put up the sign posts to hang the other signs and had the site rewired. I selected porcelain [enamel] and neon signs from my private collection that reflected the businesses that used to reside here. All the gasoline brands used to have stations in the city limits, and my father was the distributor who sold Blatz and Schlitz beer.”
Pointing down 5th Ave., Dean said, “Strandberg Electrical was just a few shops down, and they were the Norge and Frigidaire outlet. Vosmek Drugs was in the building just across Clermont Street, and they used to be the Rexall Pharmacy.”
The larger Rexall sign and the Schlitz sign were recently purchased at Mecum Auctions from the prestigious Walker Sign Collection. Dean also installed a billboard and makes it available to local charities to advertise their various fundraisers and events. Last Christmas, the Antigo City Council erected their Christmas tree in the park, and its lights blended nicely with the neon glow.
If you’re visiting northern Wisconsin, adjust your travel plans so you arrive in Antigo just as it gets dark. That is when the lights of Yesterday’s Sign Park shine brightest.