Brookfield local Michael Elson began working on the new billboard for the Pershing Boyhood Home and State Historic Site in April.
The billboard for the boyhood home has been unchanged for many years, until now.
The Pershing Boyhood Home and State Historic Site has had the same billboard on U.S. Highway 36 for many years. Although the sign has been standing for many years, it has not received regular upkeep. Late last year the Pershing Park Memorial Association put out several bids for work on the sign. After the bids came back too high one local man stepped up to the challenge.
Michael Elson heard about the billboard project and quickly put together a bid and submitted it to the park association. Coming below the other contractors, they accepted Elson’s bid and began planning the work in December, 2017.
Over the next several months, the association and Elson devised a way for the work to be done. The original sign is painted on many sheets of metal, which are fastened to the wooden billboard structure. The metal panels were removed and Elson has been painting on them, away from highway 36.
Not having painted a billboard before, Elson was not sure how many hours to charge for.
“I would say I’ve put in about 300 hours so far,” Elson said.
The sign is mostly finished. Elson is fastening some poppies to the sign to connect the site with its World War I background. The sign will also have a Highway 36 marker on it. The sign is being handpainted as well.
Elson comes from a background in art, having been interested at an early age. He has some pieces still hanging around town. Elson mainly works with watercolors.
Elson had been living in Colorado and Hawaii prior to moving back to Brookfield in 2017 to help his parents with the family farm. His biggest painting project came last year when he painted his grandma’s house.
Elson says there were some challenges at the beginning.
“There was a moment where I thought, ‘am I doing this right?,’” Elson said. “There was a challenge of using new materials, using new techniques. I’d never never done hand-lettering before.”
Elson says he has enjoyed the experience.
“You have to start somewhere,” Elson said. “The biggest part for me was to believe in myself and my abilities. I’m glad to have been a part of this project.”
Elson says after this experience he would definitely paint another billboard, although he may prefer a project that is a bit smaller.