Couple repaints old welcome sign Under-the-Hill

Published 12:57 am Friday, September 2, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Volunteers Barbara and Mike Lomasney repaint the Welcome to Natchez sign Thursday afternoon at the ramp on Silver Street. The couple took it upon themselves to restore the painting for the sake of the city’s appeal.

NATCHEZ — Mike and Barbara Lomasney of Natchez are not professional painters, but they are showing that cosmetic improvements to the city can be made by anyone willing to lend a hand, or a brush.

The “Welcome to Natchez” sign painted on the wall of the boat ramp Under-the-Hill is still legible, but faded.

“And I’m sure the flood helped,” Mike said.

The couple said they don’t know when the original Welcome to Natchez sign was painted, but the fact that it needed some attention is not a mystery to them, or passersby.

Mike Lomasney helps with filling in the outline of the old sign.

“It’s just a tad bit faded, huh?” Barbara asked.

Mike and Barbara are members of the Community Alliance. Barbara is the secretary/treasurer.

“(The sign) was brought up at the board meeting,” Barbara said. “With the balloon race, Phatwater Kayak Challenge and the (possibility of steamboats) coming back, we thought it would be nice (to touch it up).”

The Lomasneys said the volunteer project is not about praise, but more about contribution. They said instead of complaining about the way things look, why not do something to make an immediate difference?

“It’s good for the community, good for tourism and will be a plus for the ramp,” Barbara said.

Barbara said their presence, squatting in front of the long, “Natchez green” letters, has attracted plenty of attention. In just minutes, two people stopped to tell the Lomasneys thank you. One man even shouted and clapped across the street.

Passerby Cappy Stahlman said he was proud of the Lomasneys for volunteering to paint because the sign needed attention so badly.

Mike Lomasney helps with filling in the outline of the old sign.

“I am glad you are doing this,” Stahlman said, who whipped out his smart phone to take a photo. “I’m so proud — I will post it on Facebook.”

Barbara said Under-the-Hill Saloon patrons are thrilled.

“People come down from the saloon, and they say, ‘Oh man, that’s great.’ Some have even offered to buy us a beer. But we don’t want praise. This is a Community Alliance volunteer effort, and we just want to help. I guess we’re community minded. “

The Lomasneys said they would probably finish the “Natchez green” part of the welcome sign Thursday, and come back today to put a shadow behind the letters.

“(The original paint) is already there, we’re just painting over someone else’s work,” Mike said.

They will retouch the magnolia illustration with tracing paper.

Before the project, Barbara said she didn’t even know the sign existed.

“I came down, looked at it and thought — it couldn’t be that hard,” Barbara said. “I asked Mayor Jake Middleton, and he said, ‘Do it.’”

Barbara said she hopes people coming up and down the river will think that Natchez cares about its visitors, no matter what mode of transportation they use to get there. Mike agreed.

“It lets people know we are a friendly place and we welcome them to the city,” Mike said.

The Lomasneys said it will take approximately 15 hours to complete the paint job, and it should be finished within the next few days — in plenty of time to welcome an onslaught of visitors to Natchez’s shore.