MILLTOWN, NJ - California's Hollywood sign is a cultural icon dating back to 1923 when it was originally the Hollywoodland sign. The sign was initially put up to mark the location of a housing development. Today, it's a historic landmark and a must-see stop for tourists. Milltown's sign dates back to the 2009 Fourth of July celebration. The red, white and blue Milltown sign was crafted by former Fourth of July Committee Chairman Paul Biss to mimic Hollywood's famous sign since the theme that year was "Lights, Camera, Action."
Milltown's iconic Fourth of July sign has become something of a celebrity as well, drawing crowds to take photos each summer. However, this July 4 during the coronavirus pandemic presented the Milltown Fourth of July Committee and the sign's caretaker Russ Tangen with an interesting problem; where to put the sign so that groups of people did not gather. The solution was to place it in the middle of Mill Pond.
However, getting the historic symbol to float proved to be a group effort involving the Milltown Fourth of July Committee, Milltown's Boy Scout Troop 33, Milltown Borough Council members and the community. The result was more than the group could have hoped for and the location has done its job. Residents have been visiting the spot for photos ops, but the unique spot has prevented crowds from forming around the sign.
Milltown's Home Depot donated the majority of the lumber needed to craft the platform the Milltown sign currently resides on. Jay Stanway of Major's Car Wash donated the 55-gallon drums used to float the sign in the river. Scout Troop 33 Scoutmaster and former councilman Johnathan Murray and his entire family including his wife, Louise and his two children Victoria and Jonathan did the planning for the sign's positioning and gathering the materials along with Fourth of July Committee member Russ Einbinder. Murray constructed the platform and supplied the trailer to get in to the pond as well as two of the boats needed to complete the set up on the water.
"The weekend before July 4, we gathered some of our older boy scouts and their parents as well as our reliable stalwart volunteers Bob and Polly Balland, and some of our July Fourth Committee members including Terri Walsh, Councilman Phi Zambrana and former councilman Rich Revolinsky," Einbinder explained. "Rich also brought along volunteer Josh Macor with his boat. We then attached the 55-gallon drums to the eight rafts, one by one. We then moved them to the boat launching area and rowed them one by one to the spot where it now is."
"Each raft was attached to the previous ones, creating an eight-foot by 32-foot platform," Einbinder continued. "The letters themselves were erected the next day by George Murray, Army Veteran Albert Iglesias, Rich Revolinsky and his son Evrett."
Later on that evening, Murray and Einbinder mounted a light on the utility pole across the pond from the sign and illuminated it. The effect was attention-getting and an immediate hit with the community. Borough residents have been stopping by in the days leading up to the Fourth of July holiday to take pictures of Milltown's iconic sign. Milltown Fourth of July Committee President Dave Potter said the committee plans on leaving the sign up for a couple of weeks. Since many high schools including Spotswood will be holding their outdoor commencements in the upcoming days, Potter and the committee feel the floating sign makes for a picturesque backdrop for graduation photos.