LEWIS COUNTY, Wash. — A giant, two-sided billboard with a painting of Uncle Sam greets thousands of drivers heading up and down I-5 every day.
“It's a sign that makes you think,” said Tracy Christy.
The billboard sits off Exit 72 on private property and has been in Lewis County since the late 1960s.
"I've been watching that sign for probably 30 some years and I don't always agree with everything he puts up there, but it's his opinion,” said Kevin Irwin.
The billboard is owned by the Hamilton family. They’re not afraid to make bold, political statements.
“Is it hurting anybody or is it just making people think about things?" said Irwin.
Over the years, the billboard has caused controversy. A new online petition wants to get rid of the sign once and for all.
Since June 4, more than 73,000 people have signed it. The creator said the Uncle Sam sign “has been publicly posting racist and offensive statements along the side of I-5… creating an immediate hateful impression of our town for anyone that comes to visit or simply drives through.”
The petition is addressed to Chehalis City Hall, but the billboard technically sits in Napavine.
Many people in Lewis County call the billboard a landmark.
"It has been here my whole life,” said Christy.
The billboard is so famous it even has its own Wikipedia and Yelp pages.
There's debate over if the picture on the petition was ever really posted on the billboard.
"I've seen a lot of things on there, but nothing so malicious as that,” said Christy.
The Lewis County Fire Department said around 2:30 a.m. Saturday someone tried setting the billboard on fire. The sign survived, but the legs are charred and it caused a small brush fire nearby. Firefighters said they weren’t sure if the fire and the petition were related.
"The gentleman that put [the billboard] there was a great advocator for his freedoms and we had a lot of people die for those and I don't think it's OK for us to tread on them, whether we agree with them or don't,” said Christy.
KIRO 7 tried to get in contact with the Hamilton family, but wasn’t able to reach anyone.
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