The Landmark Conestoga Wagon at the viewpoint 2 miles east of Prairie City off Highway 26 has “come full circle,” said Grant County Chamber President Jerry Franklin.
The chamber recently assumed responsibility of the wagon and grounds from the Prairie City Community Association.
The PCCA, for a variety of reasons, including illness, was looking for another agency to take on the upkeep.
Visitors to the area have enjoyed the rest stop with the larger-than-life wagon since 1998 when the PCCA, the Prairie City City Council and Oregon Department of Transportation made a no-fee agreement for the care and maintenance of the wagon and grounds.
Franklin said he, his wife, Marcia, and other business owners in Prairie City helped form the Prairie City Business Association in the 1970s, which later became the PCCA.
Marcia, along with Derral Dew, Judy Jacobs, Helen Emmel, Melanie DeJong, Sandy Murray and Leonard Wolf, were members of the PCCA when the wagon and its information kiosk were developed.
Funds for maintenance of the wagon and grounds, which includes a sizeable parking lot, will still be raised through advertisement panels, which are included on part of the wagon, and some assistance from the Grant County Transient Room Tax, which is administered by the chamber.
Jerry Franklin, who lives near the wagon, said he rarely drives by it without seeing one or more people at the site.
“This popular landmark and rest area has, over the past 21 years, attracted thousands of visitors who have stopped to rest and take photos of the wagon and the scenic view of the John Day Valley and our beautiful Strawberry Mountain range,” he said.
There was no charge for 29 current advertisers at the wagon for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
In 2020, the annual advertising fees at the wagon will be $200 for an 8x10-inch panel and $300 for an 11x17-inch panel.
“We hope those who have faithfully supported the wagon over the years will continue to do so, and we hope that even more will come aboard and help out this popular landmark with more advertising or donations,” Franklin said.
A new tarp, costing $2,000, was purchased for the wagon a couple years ago, and more restoration work is needed, he said.
Franklin said he feels the project needed some “new blood infused” into it, and added “everybody is on board” at the chamber.
All the communities in Grant County can add something to highlight their area — two of the panels are photos of Prairie City, paid for by the city. This could also include museums, he said.
“I think it will open a whole new world for the county,” he said.
Anyone interested in advertising at the wagon can stop by the chamber office at 301 W. Main St. in John Day or call 541-575-0547.