On this episode of Yinzer Backstage Pass, I headed to the Allegheny County Sign Shop. I wanted to learn more about screen-printing in Pittsburgh and I had no idea what to expect when I stepped inside.
It felt like a cross between my high school shop class and Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Longtime employee Steve Smith showed me around as his team demonstrated the staggering variety of signs that they make on a daily basis. We saw how they screen-print speed signs by hand, apply police car decals, print out that squiggle for windy road signs and much, much more.
It quickly became clear to me that the folks who work in this shop are not only sign assemblers — they’re also artists. One of their seasonal duties is painting the backdrop for an ice skating rink at one of the county parks. They showed me photos of a few of their previous creations and they were truly masterpieces — huge, expertly painted panels that took inspiration from childhood board games, classic movies or exotic locations.
Just when I thought our tour was finished, Smith pulled me into a room full of the biggest banners I’ve ever seen. Shelves were stacked high with rolled-up banners from annual music festivals, races and neighborhood fairs. On the day we stopped by, Smith was putting new dates on a huge banner for the Deutschtown Music Festival. He motioned to a list on the door with all the other banners they’d be updating for upcoming summer events. He also showed off the massive printer that creates all the banners.
So next time you see a sign or decal or banner in the county, think of Steve and his team who probably painted, printed or mounted it by hand.
Learn more about Allegheny County’s Department of Public Works online.
If you want more Yinzer Backstage Pass, you can check out last week’s episode when we got a tour of PNC Park from the director of field operations and learned how they keep all that turf and dirt looking pristine for every game.