Scott Joplin Memorial Highway Sign Unveiled
One of two new highway signs that memorialize one of Sedalia's most famous musical residents was unveiled Saturday morning at the Hayden Liberty Center Association for the Arts, 111 W. 5th.
The new Scott Joplin Memorial Highway sign, which measures 3 x 6 feet, will be installed sometime Monday, according to Terri Ballard, LCAA executive director. "Raising that (much money) over two days during the festival speaks volumes about how the people who come to the Joplin festival support our mission and attend everything we do," Ballard said just prior to the unveiling.
The cost of the two signs ($2,400) was raised over a two-day period, according to Sedalia Mayor Stephen J. Galliher, who spoke at the brief unveiling ceremony. Scott Joplin Festival Board Member Kathleen Boswell explained that the bulk of the money came from two donors -- Larry Karp and David Almquist. Larry Karp was an author who has written about the life of Joplin, and David Almquist is Nevin Almquist's brother. Nevin also serves on the Joplin board.
Karp, who wrote The Ragtime Kid: A Ragtime Mystery, died Oct. 21.
Mayor Galliher noted that Sedalia has been home to a lot of famous people. "Sedalia's a place to be proud of, and I'm very proud of the folks who live here, because they always step up the plate when something's needed, they're there," Galliher said. "It's a great place to live."
Galliher went on to explain the story behind the signs to KSIS. "It's been several months since Rep. Steve Cookson (R-Poplar Bluff, District 153) came by my office and was talking about the Leroy Van Dyke Highway (proposal), because he's a country music fan, and he asked me if I would support that, and I said well sure. and then I asked him about Scott Joplin," Galliher recalled. "So he went back, wrote a piece of legislation, and then we went and testified on it at a hearing (in Jeff City) and the bill passed and we're here today because of that."
The Mayor also credited Rep. Nathan Beard for his co-sponsorship of the bill. "He was a big part of it," he said, "without those two, it wouldn't be possible." The VanDyke sign project is about $1,000 short at this point, he added. "We'll get a little more money raised an we'll have a ceremony for them."
Ragtime festival regular performer Jeff Barnhart and his wife Ann attended the ceremony and reception. He played an impromptu number on the piano in the Liberty Center lobby, entertaining those in attendance with "Maple Leaf Rag." Later, he seemed extremely pleased by the exposure the signs will bring to Joplin's legacy.
"What I think is so exciting is that all year, we try and get as many people as we can interested in the festival, in the Scott Joplin story, and in the connection of Sedalia to the world, for being the birthplace of American music. And now, that sign is going to do part of our job for us, because people we don't even know, who have no idea they're going to pass through a town called Sedalia ... will see that sign," Barnhart said.
"This is going to be such a huge thing to have his name printed there on a major road where literally tens of thousands of people travel on a daily basis," he commented. "It's absolutely huge. And congratulations to the town, the mayor, the donors and everyone who made this happen."
But a project like this "doesn't happen until people get together with a unified vision to make it work. And we're just glad that we happen to be in town when this unveiling was going on so we could be a part of it," said Barnhart, who has performed at the annual Joplin festival every year since 1996.
A miniature version of the sign will be sold at the Joplin store, Boswell noted.