For this little boy, a visit to ADOT's sign shop is 'everything'

By Laurie Merrill / ADOT Communications

No candy store or Santa’s workshop could have created the delight that glowed from Hunter Vincente during a visit to ADOT’s sign shop. ADOT Sign Factory techs pose with a little boy who loves signs

For this 7-year-old from Chino Valley, there is nothing better than road signs. They beat out scooters, sweets, digital devices and TV. They beat out Captain Marvel and Legos and Star Wars.

This tour of a little boy's dreams came about because of his great-aunt, Monica Rodarte of Tempe, who hand-stitched Hunter’s highway sign Halloween costume, posted it on ADOT’s Facebook page and asked if there was any way Hunter could see where the signs are made. Tickled, we not only set up a visit this week but featured his costume in a blog post just in time for trick-or-treating.

His mother, Shannel Mae Vincente, said that Hunter’s passion for signs started about a year ago.

“All of a sudden, it was the weirdest thing, he started memorizing signs and drawing them.’’

With his photographic memory, he recalls how the signs look, what they say and where they are.

“We go through paper like it’s nobody’s business,” she said.

If little boys have bucket lists, Hunter can check off his biggest.

As soon as their car stopped at ADOT's sign shop in Phoenix, Hunter sprinted toward two large green and white signs in the parking lot that said, “McDowell Rd and 43rd Ave exit only.”  He was joined by his brother, grandmother, mother and aunt.

Inside the expansive facility, Adam Wilt, who like the other workers present is a sign technician, gave Hunter a VIP tour.

Hunter looked on with rapt attention while sign techs made a “no trucks” sign from start to finish.Hunter poses with a favorite sign

Wilt held it up for Hunter’s inspection and said: “And that’s how a sign is born.”

Outside in the yard, Hunter gazed in awe at larger signs, some as big as 16 feet by 16 feet and others 8 feet by 23 feet. He ran for closer scrutiny.

“As a mom, you’re emotional,” Shannel said. “It’s nice to see him see the signs up close and personal and in real life.”

There was nothing in the factory that didn’t fascinate Hunter. It’s a tour he’ll never forget in part because the sign techs presented him some very special mementos, including a chart displaying hundreds of ADOT signs.  

When he received this, Hunter could no longer contain his joy. It spilled out of him in the form of a happy dance.Hunter was fascinated with a chart of ADOT signs

“I hope it was as exciting as it can be,” Wilt said. “I hope it makes his day, his year, his month and his week.”

Sign tech Tom Erickson, who has been making highway signs for more than 30 years, said he feels nearly as thrilled as Hunter.

“This is a passion for me, too,” Erickson said. “People in the sign business, it kind of grows on you.”  

At the end of the tour, the sign techs posed with Hunter, Hunter put on his road sign Halloween costume because its orange reflective vest matched those of his new friends.

Monica, who made the costume, is deeply grateful for the techs’ thoughtfulness.

“There are really no words on what this day meant to my nephew Hunter,” she said. “Thank for what you do for Arizona. You are unsung heroes that keep us safe on our roadways.”

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