Welcome to 2011.
The question some Highway 401 drivers ask when they see this sign: “Why does the Ontario government, given its strict and serious highway signage rules, allow Port Hope to welcome people to their town?”
Only when one actually takes the exit (or looks at a map), does one understand how Port Hope got to welcome people on their Highway sign. Last week, my family and I did just that.
My younger son has developed a fascination for eggs. He loves the shape, loves how they feel, and insists on sleeping with a hard boiled egg during naps and at night. He even holds on to an egg in car journeys. Unfortunately, his 4 day old egg broke in my car around Port Hope. Eggs don’t keep so well when continuously clutched by a 2 year old for days on end. The stink was dreadful, and we had to turn at the Welcome Port Hope sign.
Port Hope city planners were either very strategic or just fortunate when Highway 401 got built. According to my preferred version of the story, Port Hope city planners considered how to get more tourism into the town back in the 1960’s, called up a Don Draper type in New York, and devised a brilliant plot to name the village crossing near the planned on-ramp/off-ramp “Welcome” in order to compete with the nearby Big Apple (not New York, but the large apple-shaped landmark a few miles down the road in Cobourg), and the faraway Wawa Goose.
Unfortunately, the town of Welcome never flourished as a tourist destination, and all I saw was an abandoned chip van next to an abandoned motel; again proving the theory that a clever naming strategy is only half the battle. If you don’t make and keep your product great, the name is only an empty vessel, or a lonely off-ramp.
Maybe a giant welcome-mat structure (symbol), and the world’s best welcome-mat factory outlet will make the turn worthwhile.