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University of Georgia Football Barn Sign: A Highway 15 Landmark

Posted by Keith Lindsey on

Providing a nearly straight shot between the Georgia-Florida state line and the Georgia-North Carolina border, Georgia Highway 15 is a popular route for those heading to the beaches of South Georgia and Florida as well as the foothills of the Appalachians in Northeast Georgia and North Carolina. While the beaches of the South and the mountains of the North may be the bookends of this well-traveled state highway, the University of Georgia and its Bulldogs cause some of the heaviest traffic along this long strip of asphalt.

Home game weekends during the fall find Bulldog fans from across southern Georgia and Northern Florida pouring onto the mostly 2-lane road for the trip north to the Holy Land of the Bulldog nation, Athens. And one weekend a season, students and fans from Athens and points north flood south for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the Georgia – Florida Game in Jacksonville, Florida. Travelers along the route tick off the miles by the small towns they pass through, each car load having traditional food and restroom stops along the way. But there is one landmark that is a tradition for every Georgia fan travelling along Georgia 15.

The UGA Football Barn Sign just south of Tennille has become a Mecca of sorts with Saturdays in the fall seeing dozens of fans stopping to see the current message. A selfie at the barn sign is now as much a game day ritual as the Dawg Walk in Athens.For some, the barn has always sported its commentary on the Bulldog’s football program for others it seems like a more recent phenomenon. For Ross Smith, the resident Barn Sign “Artist,” and his friends, the Old Savannah Crew, the Barn Sign has been a way of life since 2000. Birthed out of frustration with some of then Coach Jim Donnan’s decisions, the side of an old store has been a self-published editorial page

Messages through the years have ranged from the original frustration to praise and everywhere in-between. Smith admits his favorite message was, “Ticket: $40, Coals and Meat: $51, Munson: Priceless.” Only one message wasn’t about the Bulldogs, following September 11, 2001 the Barn read, United We Stand with a one-starred American flag. Currently, the Barn declares, “Chubb for Heisman.” You can see all the barn messages on the Barn’s Facebook page, UGA Football Barn Sign. (It only has 13k+ likes.)

Today, the Barn Sign isn’t just a landmark. It is also a collector’s item. Having long desired to make the Barn Sign available to its fan base, Smith thought t-shirt seemed the logical way to share the landmark. A challenge existed, however, in that the Georgia Bulldog logo on the barn is trade mark protected and no one seemed to think permission (licensing) would be granted by the University of Georgia Athletic Association. Enter Deep River Outfitters. Deep River is a for-profit business based in Tennille that celebrates American Rivers with great apparel and accessories. Central to Deep River’s culture is giving back and a percentage of sales are given to local ministries. Since the Barn Sign is so close to the Ohoopee River, the Deep River partners, Keith Lindsey, Matt Vos and Adam Foster approached Ross with the plan to support First Love Kids with the proceeds from the sale of a Barn Sign shirt. Ross agreed and a request for licensing was approved by the University Athletic Association.

First Love Kids is an outreach ministry that inspires academic and spiritual growth and encourages children and adolescents to reach their full potential. Based in Sandersville, First Love Kids serves at risk youth across Washington County with mentoring and tutoring programs and serves the community at large through food distribution. First Love Kids distributed over 13 tons of food in 2014 alone. With the sale of the Barn Sign shirts, First Love Kids hopes to acquire a facility to serve young women who need a place to call home.

Shirts come in both long and short sleeve and are available in Comfort Colors red, black and granite. Short sleeve are $32 and long sleeve are $39 and are available at the Barn Sign on home football game Friday and Saturdays and online at shopdeepriver.com.

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