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Experience Old Town Warrenton announces new LOVE sign planned for Depot Park

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Airlie's LOVEwork sculpture

Warrenton's first LOVEwork sign is located at the Airlie Resort. The sculpture is known for its use of recycled materials, including recycled plastic, reclaimed steel and an old tractor tire. Experience Old Town Warrenton has commissioned a new LOVEwork sculpture for downtown Warrenton.

Experience Old Town Warrenton is spreading the love downtown. With the help of a major donor, the group is investing in a new LOVE sculpture to promote it.

Experience Old Town Warrenton, the town’s new Main Street initiative, has found a donor and a local artist to create Downtown Warrenton’s first Virginia “LOVEwork,” the name the Virginia Tourism Corporation gives its “LOVE” sculptures that dot the state.

The sign in the works will be located near the unrestored caboose in Depot Park, between Third and Fourth streets. The park is adjacent to the Warrenton Branch Greenway, a vertical park that snakes through Warrenton along a reclaimed railway bed.

Local artist Dorothy Smith has planned a colorful railcar design for the new sculpture. The plan is to position the artwork so that the old caboose appears in the background when people stand near the new LOVE sign to snap pictures, said Town Manager Brannon Godfrey during a town council meeting Tuesday.

Experience Old Town Warrenton interim Executive Director Aimee O’Grady and board members Maggie Lovitt and Paula Combs attended the meeting to deliver the EOTW’s first report to the town council and to share news about the new LOVE sign.

Town Councilwoman Sunny Reynolds (at large) said the group is excited about the LOVE sculpture and sees it as a way to highlight the downtown area and draw more visitors.

The new sculpture will also be the first piece of public art to be installed in the downtown area.

“So many people use the trail, and this will fit in with the whole railway motif there,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said a $10,000 donation from Matt Iten, a local real-estate developer, was key to the project moving forward so quickly.

“It’s a huge win and I can’t thank him enough,” Reynolds said.

Iten also recently donated the same amount to the restoration efforts at the Warrenton Cemetery, which was damaged by vandals last April.

In an email, Iten said he has long supported efforts to improve the Greenway pocket park and was happy to contribute to the project.

“I was approached by the town on this concept and agreed to be part of it,” Iten wrote. “I am very happy with its location and the fun opportunities it will create.”

The project is expected to take at least eight or nine months and will likely be installed in Depot Park sometime next year.

According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, there are now almost 100 LOVE signs across the state. Warrenton’s first LOVE sign was erected at Airlie. The sculpture there is known for its use of recycled materials and for the many colorful “love lock” padlocks left by couples married at the resort.

The Airlie sculpture incorporates reclaimed steel, a tractor tire from the Fauquier County landfill and Trex plastic, a mix of recycled soda bottles and grocery bags. It is illuminated at night by LED solar lighting, according to the Airlie website.

According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the LOVEworks program is a statewide branding initiative designed to promote “historic life experiences in Virginia and strengthen awareness of the ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ message.”

“Virginia is for lovers,” has been the state’s slogan for nearly 50 years. It’s meant to promote the many things to love about the state, “from the coast to the mountains and every small town or bustling city in between,” as the VTC website states.

Correction:  This article has been corrected to note that the new LOVE sign will be located in Depot Park, the site of an unrestored, old caboose, and not adjacent to the restored, vintage Norfolk & Western Railway caboose. We regret the error.

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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