My mom posted the photo above to my Facebook wall last week on occasion of the 175th anniversary of the Seneca County Fair. Look closely. These types of follies are what make small towns feel quaint and special. The sight of this overlooked error (quickly corrected, but now memorialized here) made me remember another time one of our signs in town wasn’t quite as it should have been.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, our school held a contest to come up with a motto and logo for Republic, Ohio. My sister’s friend Michelle won the motto contest with the tagline of “Republic, Ohio: Small in Size, Big in Heart”. A sign was erected at the main intersection of town (we are so small, we don’t even have a stoplight, so passerbys likely missed it!)

Not long after the sign was put up, town vandals covered up the new motto with “Republic, Ohio: Small in Size, Pig in Heat”. Our family found out over the phone from our minister, and from there I remember the telephone continuing to ring and my parents lamenting to those on the other end “who would do such a thing” among other choice words.

Looking back, this incident seems funny. At the time, it was huge hit to the pride of our small town. An effort of creating something like that – both physical and symbolic – took time, resources and dedication. For vandals to treat it so carelessly was unthinkable. There was no social media then for the vandals to follow the headlines their handiwork created. It was likely something bored kids from a small town did on a Saturday night.

I’m not sure why this memory sticks with me so closely. Yes, the vandelized line is funny and catchy. But, it’s also the memory of the stir it caused. If we weren’t so proud of the town, we would have let the incident pass without the Sunday afternoon game of telephone.

Small Town Leadership Lesson: It’s okay to be passionate and have pride in things that are important to you. And it’s OK to be frustrated or upset when that thing is threatened. I’d rather go through life and face occasional defeat because the things I’m proud of were shot down than to go through life without any conviction at all.

What do you take pride in that would be defeating if anyone tried to take it away or minimize it? How do you share this pride with others?

Does the fairground sign have you looking for more fair stories? I’ve written about my deep connection to all things fair and 4-H in several blogs – read more about the purple ribbon, why the State Fair matters, and reflecting on the word “girl”.



Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.


  • Rachael says:

    Hi there – Rev. Patti Lawrence’s daughter here. I’m preaching tomorrow at my own small town church in CT, and remembering this story. The motto was created for the sesquicentennial of the town. “Small in size, big in heart” was a great motto for Republic, and it’s also a good descriptor of my church, so I’m borrowing the story :). I think I was 17 the year this happened, and it stays with me too 🙂

    • Natalie says:

      So great to hear from you! I’m glad some of the many memories I have from your mom and family are making their way out of my head and into the world. I hope you are doing well and glad this can provide some inspiration!

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