MISSOULA — In August of 2011, then-17 year-old Jace Holyoak was part of a team that erected a Welcome to Lolo sign that has been seen by tens of thousands of eyes as you enter from the north as part of an Eagle Scout project. He recalled thinking, “You know, this will be easy, you know, I’ll just go get a couple of logs and get a piece of wood and put it up and it’ll be done in no time.”
Nearly ten years later and going on 27, Holyoak, who now lives in Spokane, says there was a lot more to it. “I started going to local businesses and fundraising money, and then I didn’t really realize the process it would take to get the permitting to get that sign up, and that took several years.”
It’s the type of hands-on project that a small town like Lolo prides itself in - and one that Holyoak hoped would last for decades, which is why a recent drive back home had him concerned. “I was driving to Lolo to visit my in-law's house and saw the sign was down. I was just kind of curious what happened there when I investigated a little bit more, saw that it was laying down in the ditch.”
What happened next was not a surprise - Holyoak said he began receiving social media and text messages from the Lolo community offering their help in getting a new sign put up. “When I see that sign or when I did see that sign, you know it meant I’m almost home, I’m ready to end the day, I’m back in Lolo where things are a lot slower.”
Lolo resident Kirk Simmons is in the business of sign building, and he understands what Holyoak’s "Welcome to Lolo" sign means to his community: “We definitely want to look at getting it rebuilt in steel. It’s going to be a grassroots, community effort for sure.”
Holyoak believes with the support the community is already showing, along with a little more knowledge about the impact of the elements on the sign, they’ll be able to put up a sign that will last for decades. He said, “We’ve learned some lessons over the last ten years with the sign, and some of the flaws we’d like to improve, and we’ll hopefully make it more structurally sound.”
And even though Holyoak now lives three hours away, you can bet he’ll play a key role in a new "Welcome to Lolo" sign design, and in getting it back in the ground for those tens of thousands of eyes that will be traveling to or through in years to come.