We define a sign as “anything that draws attention to our client’s product, service or business.” This includes the layout and landscaping. In this case we wanted to show our client how things would appear when they totally redo the park in the future. We wanted to raise the bar and set the theme. This was a good plan for both them and us, of course.
The ride signs and features are done in primary colors to appeal to kids of all ages. The ride structure is designed to blend in with the landscaping in a more subtle fashion. For now, it looks good on the hard landscape of the tarmac. Eventually it will look even better when everything is redone in a proper and permanent fashion.
The large main feature sits in the middle of one of the ride loops. The base will be buried in bark mulch for now, but when moved to its permanent home, low shrubs will soften the transition to the ground. The colorful portion of the feature protrudes high above the ride so it can be seen from a distance.
The structural steel supports for the globe are cleverly hidden in the arms and legs of the lower bugs. A final substructure of ¼-in. round steel (pencil rod) forms the armature to which we will attach the galvanized steel mesh.
We then troweled on a thick coat of fiberglass-reinforced concrete. Once it had set the perfect amount our crew carved in the detail. The globe was to look like it was made from thick, curved planks of wood. The lettering on the band was hand carved in. To speed things up, I laid it out in sections, using an overhead projector and transparencies.
We stuck to the primary colors as much as possible since this ride is designed to appeal to young families. The darker glazes tone things down a bit and tie it all together.
The ballet dancer, who is to be perched on top of the globe, has a sturdy, welded steel frame running through it. The main body is sculpted from fiberglass-reinforced concrete while the arms, legs and tutu are sculpted from Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy. It is hand painted with three coats of Sherwin-Williams house paint and then glazed to bring out the textures and add character.

New ride signage creates a park’s new theme

By Dan Sawatzky

Posted on Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Even though our client has a fully built-out amusement park, which was founded in 1910, our recent project for them was very much like starting with a blank page. While the place now very much resembles a parking lot with rides, their exciting goal is to redesign and build a full-blast theme park over the next ten years, with a natural, park-like setting. That long-term goal is still very much in the planning stage but they added some new rides this year. They asked us to do the signs.

We encouraged them to take a longer view as we designed this year’s signs. Rather than do something that fits into the current “carny” style we wanted to design signs and features that will be appropriate for the future look of the themed park. The rides and signs they are currently installing will most likely be moved to a new location in the future. Our plan was to think of the future as we designed and built. We purposely designed things to be modular to facilitate easy moving later. It was our goal to raise the bar significantly and set the theme and style going forward.

We were tasked with the identification of two rides this year. The first was FlutterBye, which we chronicled in a previous issue of SignCraft. The second, larger ride was dubbed Bug Whirled, a figure-eight, spinning, family coaster.


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Dan Sawatzky

Dan Sawatzky's shop, Sawatzky's Imagination Corporation, is in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Dan shares his experience in his Sign Magic Workshops on 3-D sign making, and his Sculpting Workshop.