Back in the olden days of, say, 2019, you might occasionally see a festive sign in someone's front yard. Maybe there was a lonely balloon tied to it and a multicolor "Happy Birthday!" or "Congratulations!" You might think it was sweet or cool, or you might not give it much thought at all. Those were different times.
In early 2020, though, the novel coronavirus arrived in the United States, and by March many states had closed all but the most essential businesses and services. Schools at every level, from kindergartens to universities, went online for the spring term. And yet birthdays and graduations and anniversaries continued to happen. How was anyone to celebrate the achievements and milestones in their friends' and families' lives? And how could they do it in a very, very large way?
Socially Distanced Celebrations
Several companies have been installing massive celebratory signage in front yards for the past few years, including national franchises like Buckhead Yard Greetings and Sign Gypsies. Most of these businesses are small operations run by a few local people who had been doing maybe one sign a day. They were often side gigs for people with regular day jobs.
But when COVID-19 cases began skyrocketing and celebrations were canceled, the yard sign business exploded. Cecilia Kauffman, operations manager for Buckhead Yard Greetings in Atlanta, says her company has had seven times the number of orders it had in 2019. "It's so awesome to be able to spread so much joy, and now even more so when it's the only thing people can do to celebrate during a pandemic," she says via email.
Other companies across the U.S. have seen similar spikes in business. Card My Yard South Kansas City owner Kati Purmort told The Kansas City Star that her business jumped from one or two yard sign orders per night to 10. Another franchise in New York reported that it was able to hire employees and open a warehouse thanks to the massive uptick in business.
These signs work for more than mere happy birthdays. People have requested signs for marriage proposals, and schools have placed bulk orders for signs acknowledging their graduating seniors. Not only do the signs make the recipients happy, but they announce to drivers-by what to celebrate and when to honk their horns.
It's a point of pride for many of these sign installers that their work be a delightful surprise. That means most spend all day taking orders and payments via phone and internet. Then, under cover of night, they install the humungous signs in front yards where they can be plainly seen from the street. Each sign takes about a half-hour to install. Some businesses stay up late to get the signs in place in the wee hours of the morning, while others wake up before dawn to have everything in place before the unsuspecting household rises.
In either case, this is some seriously socially distant work. Most sign installers work alone, and they have no contact with the people doing the celebrating. When 24 hours is over, they return in the night to remove the signs and possibly set them up at the next house or school, all in good fun.