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.

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.

“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.

“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.

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