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Jell-O Museum Exit 47 Billboard

First I want to acknowledge the

folks that have made it possible

for us to keep the LeRoy bill-

board on the Thruway. Without

our partners, it couldn’t hap-

pen. D&R Depot Restaurant,

Genesee County Chamber of

Commerce, LeRoy Business

Council, LeRoy Subway, Le-

Roy McDonalds, and Kraft

Foods- Jell-O. Finding the mon-

ey to pay for a billboard is dif-

ficult, but when you have great

partners, its possible. I don’t

remember when we contracted

for our first billboard - - maybe

ten years ago. I knew that we

needed a billboard to encour-

age people to get off Exit 47 to

visit the Jell-O Museum. The

Federal Government controls

what signs can go on the NYS

Thruway because it is a federal

highway. There are very strict

rules. I discovered this when I

was researching how to get sig-

nage for Exit 47. I wanted folks

to know that there were camp-

grounds and fast food and the

Jell-O Museum at Exit 47. But I

discovered that because Exit 47

of Interstate 90 is an exit to In-

terstate 490, (Interstate to Inter-

state ) we cannot have signs. In

fact, Rochester is in a difficult

situation, because all of their

exits - -45 -46 – 47 are Interstate

to Interstate so you will not find

any signs on the Thruway that

tells you anything about getting

off at those exits. (Next time

you’re on the Thruway, watch

for those kind of signs. Batavia

exit 48 has several .) And as an-

other interesting note, perhaps

you have read about Governor

Cuomo’s battle with the Feds

about the new signs he has had

installed along the Thruway

advertising NYS history, food,

and nature. There are two sets

of five between LeRoy and Bat-

avia, and according to the Feds,

they are illegal. I’m sure the

company that made the signs,

and the people who put up the

signs and the lawyers who will

defend Cuomo’s decision are

making money.

Anyway - - it took me

several months to get in contact

with the company that owned

the first billboard that I want-

ed to use. At one time it had

an ad for Wyoming Gaslight

Village and Christmas Shop.

Then it had an insurance sign.

But it had been neglected for

several years and it was in bad

condition. When I finally got in

contact with the billboard com-

pany, they told me that because

the sign was an “unusual size” it

might cost more. To make that

story short - -we finally signed

the contract for the billboard -

- about $8000 a year. The plan

was to have several partners

who would pitch in about $75 a

month. That’s pretty cheap for

advertising that reaches thou-

sands of people. Sean at the De-

pot Restaurant was the first to

jump on board. He knew that if

we can get people off the Thru-

way, south on 19 – right past the

Depot and then left down Main

Street to the Jell-O Museum, he

would get business. And so did

Louis Buono at the LeRoy Mc-

Donalds. The folks at Subway,

understood, and even though

the traffic doesn’t go by them,

people are looking for other

types of fast food. LeRoy Busi-

ness Council understood the

need to get folks off at Exit 47

too, so they have been a partner

since the beginning. Then, the

Genesee County Chamber of

Commerce said that, they would

match two of our partners, and

they became a double partner

on the billboard. And when I

went to Jell-O to get permission

to use their trademark, they be-

came a triple partner. So there

are ten of us, keeping Exit 47

and the Jell-O Museum on the


We know the billboard

works. The year that it was put

up, the sign wasn’t even com-

plete and we had folks stopping

by to say they saw the billboard.

A couple of years ago, the old

billboard blew over. We had a

drop in visitors for five months

until we could get a new one up.

The new one can only be seen

as you travel east between Bata-

via and LeRoy. It’s lit at night,

and has a very simple design be-

cause people can’t read a lot of

text as they travel at 75 miles an


We have a small sign

above the counter at the Jell-O

Gallery: “Tell us if you saw the

Jell-O billboard on the Thru-

way.” Folks say – “We’ve seen

that sign every time we go to

Buffalo - -or Niagara Falls -

-and we finally decided to stop.”

“We saw the sign and wondered

what a Jell-OMuseum would be

about.” “We were on our way

to Boston, and figured it would

be a great break to get off the In-

terstate and see the Jell-O Mu-

seum. Where do you suggest we

have lunch. ” So although there

are only a few of us who pay for

the billboard, many businesses

in LeRoy reap the benefit.

In 1965, at the urging

of President Lyndon Johnson’s

wife, Ladybird Johnson, the

“Highway Beautification Act”

was signed into law. It limited

billboards on federal highways

and required each state to set

standards for the size, light-

ing and spacing of billboards.

States risk losing 10% of their

federal highway money if they

do not maintain control of bill-

boards. Four states prohibit

billboards – Vermont, Maine,

Hawaii and Alaska. Just an

interesting note - when Henry

Ford was arrested for speeding

in LeRoy, he claimed that the

size of the letters on the speed

signs in LeRoy were too small.

When that didn’t work, he had

two billboards erected in LeRoy

warning drivers that LeRoy was

a tourist speed trap. The signs

were mysteriously taken down,

but he had them put up again. It

would be almost a year before

the issue was settled, and the

signs were removed.