By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – InkFreeNews has identified two culprits behind an escalating war of words in Warsaw.
Signs of the warfare and puns are widespread and the ongoing wordplay is expected to continue as commercial businesses fan the flames of frivolity by joining in on the fun and playfully attacking other businesses with quips, digs and light-hearted attacks posted on their own reader board signs.
As of Wednesday, the Warsaw Sign Wars had spread to dozens of businesses in Kosciusko County and (supposedly) a major league baseball team in Chicago.
Confronted with the issue, Kim Silveus and Julie Tuinstra both admitted to launching the drive-by communiqués.
Silveus, whose family previously owned the gas station known today as Boggs Pit Stop on Center Street, is a longtime friend of Tuinstra, whose family now owns and operates the store, which routinely displays punny little phrases on their sign.
Silveus said she saw the trend happen in another state and thought Tuinstra would be the perfect person to get it started in Warsaw.
Tuinstra, a meister of puns, liked the idea and started the domino effect with a sign that read, “Anyone wanna do a sign war? It will be a gas!”
That was one week ago and the trend blossomed like a sprawling bed of spring flowers.
Interest grew so quickly that Tuinstras created a Facebook page about it that now boasts more than 1,500 followers. It’s also been a popular topic on the local To Go Kosciusko Facebook page used by the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce to promote restaurants.
Silveus has tried to document and photograph all of the signs and assembled a collection of 82 signs on Facebook as of Wednesday, May 19. Those getting in on the fun include a church and the city of Warsaw.
Participation now includes smaller signs and window signs. Some of the messages are a bit edgy, but so far, nobody’s seen a negative online comment about it, they said.
The timing could not have been better as the emergence of the signs comes with the receding concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s been a very weary and dreary time for everybody with coronavirus,” Tuinstra said. “It’s taken a step away from that.”
Such an activity likely works better in a small community, they said.
“Everybody knows somebody,” Silveus said. “It’s kind of fun to bring everybody in together. Some may be competitors, but they’re enjoying time together.”
“These are the kind of things people remember and bring people in,” Silveus said.
“I’ve made friends with people across the street that I’ve never talked to,” Tuinstra added.
Scott Wiley, member relations manager for the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, said he’s seen the trend elsewhere and is enjoying the local version.
“This has taken on a life of its own. I think people were chomping at the bit to just have some fun,” Wiley said. “It’s neat to see how many businesses and how different clever ways they’ve integrated their shots across the bow.”
He said he thinks it’s good for business because people are paying more attention.
“People are actually looking for signs. I know I am. I’m looking for businesses that have changeable signs to see what they say. I think it’s great,” Wiley said.
One of the most recent signs that showed up on Facebook was one posted by Wiley that appears to be from Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
One nearby newspaper picked up on the Wrigley sign and suggested it was legit.
In reality, Wiley said, he made the sign with an online generator.
“I never said it was real, but people are just running with it,” Wiley said.