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York unveils refinished First Thanksgiving sign

Jason Addy
York Dispatch
  • York officials rededicated the First National Thanksgiving sign on the 239th anniversary of the original proclamation.
  • Thanksgiving was started in York decades before the rest of the nation celebrated the holiday.

With Thanksgiving just over three weeks away, York City kicked off the celebrations with a ceremony to reinstall the First National Thanksgiving commemorative sign outside the York County Administrative Center.

York County Commissioner Susan Byrnes and York City Mayor Kim Bracey led the rededication ceremony Tuesday morning on the 239th anniversary of the original proclamation of the first Thanksgiving.

A committee of the Second Continental Congress, led by Sam Adams, made the original proclamation in 1777 to honor the American revolutionaries’ victory in the Battle of Saratoga, said Dan Roe, vice president of interpretation for the York County History Center.

From left, Judicial Center Assistant Maintenance Supervisor Scott Lewis and Facilities Manager Vada Fink, reinstall the First National Thanksgiving marker, near 21 E. Market Street Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in York City. An anonymous donor had the York City First National Thanksgiving marker sanded and repainted. Amanda J. Cain photo

Roe, who also spoke at the ceremony, said the Second Continental Congress was flushed out of Philadelphia and retreated to York, spending almost a year in the area between September 1777 and June 1778.

The sign, which has been in place since at least 1976, highlights some important events in the nation’s history, Roe said, representing the critical time period of the Revolutionary War as well as the creation of the tradition and spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday.

From left, Judicial Center Assistant Maintenance Supervisor Scott Lewis tightens a screw, as Facilities Manager Vada Fink holds the sign, while reinstalling the First National Thanksgiving marker, near 21 E. Market Street Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in York City. An anonymous donor had the York City First National Thanksgiving marker sanded and repainted. Amanda J. Cain photo

“I think it’s a really unique story that’s part of York County’s history,” Roe said.

After an anonymous donor stepped forward to cover the costs of refurbishing, the county’s facilities management staff took the sign down and transported it to Sheaffer Signs in Lewisberry, department director Scott Cassel said.

Sheaffer Signs owner Leroy Sheaffer spent several days sandblasting and powder-coating the sign before taking eight hours to hand paint the more than 450 characters on each side.

Judicial Center Facilities Manager Vada Fink, tightens the last screw on the First National Thanksgiving marker, near 21 E. Market Street Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in York City. An anonymous donor had the York City First National Thanksgiving marker sanded and repainted. Amanda J. Cain photo
Leroy Sheaffer, owner of Sheaffer Signs in Lewisberry

“It was pretty rough. It was in pretty bad shape,” Sheaffer said, noting the sign “will last quite some time” — 15 to 25 years — because of the process and products he used.

Though he didn’t know the full history and folklore behind the sign, Sheaffer said the sign was a unique piece for him to work on.

“(It’s) not the same old thing you do every day,” Sheaffer said.