Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Welcome to Fairfield" freeway sign featuring a smiling Mr. Jelly Belly should soon beckon potential visitors to the city.

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005 - 12:18:52 am PDT

City ready to embrace giant Mr. Jelly Belly

By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - A red, 62-foot-high "Welcome to Fairfield" freeway sign featuring a smiling Mr. Jelly Belly should soon beckon potential visitors to the city. The Fairfield City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of allowing the sign. The council must take one additional vote at its May 3 meeting."I think it's lively and attractive," City Councilwoman Marilyn Farley said. The sign could be up by the end of summer, said Kevin Johnson of the Fairfield Hotel Association. The Fairfield Hotel Association proposed the "Welcome to Fairfield" sign. The association's goal is to get potential visitors off the freeway and into Fairfield and nearby Suisun Valley.

This sign is to be located along Interstate 80 at the auto mall. It is to have a message board and panels promoting a proposed Welcome Center, Jelly Belly, Suisun Valley farms and the auto mall. Near the top of the sign is to be an 8-foot-tall, three-dimensional version of Mr. Jelly Belly, the mascot for the Jelly Belly Candy Co. Jelly Belly is already a city tourist attraction.

Mayor Karin MacMillan mentioned the sign's height, which tops the 45-foot limit in the city's sign laws. She expressed concern about setting a precedent. But Johnson saw a difference between the "Welcome to Fairfield" sign and a typical freeway advertising sign."This is not any one particular business, per se," Johnson said. "This is the community-at-large."She agrees, MacMillan said. But that doesn't stop someone else coming forward asking for an exception and saying that the city did it for the welcome sign, she said.MacMillan also asked that the sign mention that Fairfield is home to Travis Air Force Base. But Travis is not a tourist destination, Johnson said. It would create a headache for the base to send tourists there, he said.

City Councilman Jack Batson mentioned the importance of the sign in promoting Suisun Valley. The rural area west of town has produce stands and wineries. Fairfield's longstanding policy has been to avoid developing the valley and leave it in agriculture - something that is easier to do if the farmers are successful.

Other signs that exceed the city's sign height limit are the 80-foot-tall Westfield Shoppingtown Solano Mall arch and the 55-foot-tall Saturn sign.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

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