Bright new branding and messaging heading into Naramata rubbed some community members wrong this week, and the local tourism association has quickly backtracked on its controversial signage in response.
Discover Naramata, a non-profit group of local business owners and community members, exists to promote tourism and businesses in the village and area. Paying members have a say in decisions regarding branding, marketing and other initiatives.
A recent decision ignited a firestorm of discussion and criticism from the small but notoriously vocal community on social media.
In late January, as part of an ongoing rebranding and updating initiative for local signage, a sign with new slogans was erected just outside of the village.
Heading into Naramata it reads "Hello! We knew you'd find us," in bright large lettering with turquoise accents on a brown background, with the Discover Naramata logo beneath.
Heading out of Naramata, travellers see, in the same tall lettering, "Well...that was fun."
Naramatians were not shy on social media when the signage was erected, complaining about the loss of rustic older signs and decrying the messaging of the new one.
A common theme: Concern that community members outside of Discover Naramata had not been extensively consulted, and that the sign's aesthetic and message felt too big-city and tourist-y for the tiny village's way of life.
The uproar was heard loud and clear by Discover Naramata.
They announced Friday they will be removing the signs.
“We appreciate the passion the community has shown about signage. Thank you to all for their feedback. We are making arrangements for the new signs to be removed," reads a statement from the organization shared with Castanet.
"We encourage the community to come together to create a plan for community signage moving forward.”
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen told Castanet its staff did not provide input into the signage, and noted that the signs are not the official welcome for the Village of Naramata. That is the House of Bald Eagle sign, located 100-odd metres down the road and which has a permit from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Discover Naramata has said publicly they are having an Annual General Meeting on Feb. 13, with an information session open to the public ahead of time at which they will share details of their five-year strategic plan. They encourage the public to attend. Details to come on the Discover Naramata website.