Home Come to Downtown Waynesboro, a MAGA haven: At least that’s what the sign says
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Come to Downtown Waynesboro, a MAGA haven: At least that’s what the sign says

Chris Graham

waynesboro maga An ad hoc marketing effort to lure tourists from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park to spend their dollars in Downtown Waynesboro is taking a curiously MAGA approach.

“Make Waynesboro Great Again” is the money part of the message on a sign greeting drivers coming down Route 250 from the parkway, the drive and the national park into Waynesboro.

Yes, whoever it was that did this had to go there.

The city, for what it’s worth, isn’t behind the messaging, which is aimed at drawing tourists downtown.

That’s the only bit of good news here: your tax dollars didn’t go toward disseminating this partisan message.

The drawing tourists downtown idea would otherwise earn plaudits for whoever is behind this.

For the past 30 years, city leaders have tried to pump life back into the downtown business district by scheming ways to attract some of those visitors down from the top of the mountain into the city, and though it took a while – OK, a long, long while – there’s been some positive momentum of late.

The activity associated with Basic City Brewing Co. on the east side of town, to cite one huge bit of positive momentum, has brightened up the Route 250 entrance corridor to the city.

And the downtown core itself has been filling up nicely, with the Wayne Theatre and a thriving restaurant scene along West Main Street and Wayne Avenue providing actual night life in Waynesboro for the first time in forever.

The folks at Basic City, at the Wayne, at the restaurants, delis, coffee shops, the wine bar, could use the extra boost from people coming in from a drive up the parkway from Roanoke and North Carolina, from a weekend trip down the Skyline Drive from NoVA to take in the rolling vistas, to get some of those folks to come into Waynesboro.

Is “Make Waynesboro Great Again” the best way to do that?

“If the intent is to get people to Waynesboro, it’s badly done,” reader Shannon Tierney wrote on a thread on the AFP Facebook page, where we tried to crowdsource an answer to the question, who is behind this?

I’d first put that question to the City Manager, Mike Hamp, to see if the sign was the product of a marketing campaign from the city.

The answer from Hamp: “The sign was not created/installed by the city.”

So, the city isn’t formally behind it; that really doesn’t matter, though, because it sure does look official.

The effort to crowdsource an answer as to who is behind the sign by putting it to the AFP Facebook page drew dozens of comments, but no hard answers on who might be having fun with us all here.

Just lots of opinions, and from the back-and-forth, you can see why it’s not the best idea to use a partisan message in tourism marketing in this day and age.

“The sign makes it sound like the best days of Waynesboro are in the past and might currently be a rundown mess. That’s not true,” reader Mark Rockwell wrote in the thread. “Get rid of the ‘great again’ stuff, and it might be better. Why turn people off/shoot yourself in the foot using a loaded slogan? The ‘revive downtown’ part is harder to edit around. Need a new slogan, IMO. This one’s a dog that doesn’t hunt.”

Another reader, Nicky Eutsler, who elsewhere in the thread posted a gif of Trump mugging for a camera, under a “Trump 2024” tag, offered his opinion that “you can’t deny that ‘Make America Great Again’ is one of the best and most effective marketing strategies that has ever existed.”

Multiple readers pointed out in response that a certain German leader from the 1930s used “Make Germany Great Again” to draw attention to himself, but that’s neither here nor there, right?

“Everyone instantly knows what it means and what it’s referring to,” Eutsler went on in his comment, and yes, unfortunately, we do know what the sign greeting drivers on 250 means, and what it’s referring to, which is kind of the point.

“We wouldn’t even be in this comments section if it wasn’t!” Eutsler wrote. “And—surprise surprise—people steal marketing strategies all the time. So good for Waynesboro! And again—they wanted to get a reaction from people, and this comments section is proving that it worked.”

The point about people stealing marketing strategies all the time being what it was, given the historical reference to 1930s Germany, Eutsler was right that the sign is getting a reaction.

Maybe not the one that he or the people behind the sign would want, but a reaction nonetheless.

For example: “Another reason why I hate where I live. Kcuf Trump. I can’t wait to move out,” was the reaction of reader Christine Walden.

“Says Waynesboro is Trump town. That’s my interpretation,” another reader, Linda Clark, reacted.

More reactions:

  • Logan Anderson: “The stench of Trump emanates from this sign.”
  • Jillian Danson: “The main thing is lost in the MAGA language.”
  • Beverly Harmon: “If you’re not a Trump supporter, this would NOT entice you into town. Many people will run the other way. I have become a fan of Waynesboro, but this …”
  • Jeff Voelkers: “Put the bulls*** MAGA politics aside. Waynesboro is a good place to live. Let’s use advertising like this to bring the tourists out of the park so the can see just how great this place is while they support our local businesses.
  • Kaitlyn Batten: “They want more visitors while making something political and therefore turning away half of those visitors. Make it make sense.”
  • Brandon Williams: “I moved here two months ago and find it to be cringe af. The Trump cult members are gonna love it, but people who drive by are thinking, ‘Wow make it great again? ‘Cause it’s a dump now?’ I love it here and want this town to thrive, but this sign just suggests it’s a sundown town with its politics.”
  • Lauren Sandercock: “This comment section is EXACTLY why having a tourism sign featuring graphics that reference a divisive political viewpoint is not a great advertisement for our city.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].