These iconic signs have been welcoming tourists and residents into Colorado since 1950.
You probably have a keychain, sweatshirt, or mug sporting the "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" sign, or maybe you even have a photo of yourself standing next to one of these signs while on vacation. As with anything that has caught the public's attention, there's a history with these signs that have been welcoming motorists to Colorado for decades.
World War II had just ended, and travel was booming. According to the State of Colorado, State Publicity Director decided Colorado needed signs to welcome the droves of tourists entering the beloved state and worked with the penitentiary to create the signs. The first simple and rustic sign was installed on US 85-87 over Raton Pass in 1950.
“They’re very representative of a period in our state’s history,” said Lisa Scooch, the senior historian with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). “It was before we king of politically became more important on the map. We were kind of just one of those rural western states searching for identity and trying to establish identity as a state."
In 1989, CDOT offered a contest to college students to redesign these signs. It was time for an update after nearly 40 years. Since "colorful" was printed on each sign, would a colorful design fare even better? The winning design was truly colorful as it stated "Welcome Colorado" over a mountain range of orange, purple, and blue. Unfortunately, it "created quite an outrage among people,” remembered Bob Wilson, CDOT’s Communication Manager. The newly designed signs were replaced by the older rustic signs after just eight years after installation.
CDOT continues to maintain and refurbish the Colorado signs throughout the state. As reported by CDOT, these iconic signs have posed a traffic and safety hazard as tourists pull off the side of the road to capture just the right photo with the sign. In fact, CDOT teamed up with the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) in May 2019 to begin creating and installing replica signage at Colorado visitor centers to provide a safer spot for photographers. Additional signage along the high-speed roads will encourage motorists to stop at a nearby visitors center for photos.
“These new replica signs give us an exciting new way to attract visitors to our Colorado Welcome Centers, where our volunteer travel counselors can inspire them to explore more and leave more economic impact during their stay,” said CTO Director Cathy Ritter.
There are more than 40 simple and rustic signs continuing to welcome people to the beautiful and colorful state of Colorado. Make a plan to visit all 40 and capture yourself with a gorgeous backdrop.
Looking for more history on Colorado? Check out this throwback video reel from the 1960s that showcases the hottest attractions at the time.