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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Free State of Florida: New welcome signs at state entry points

The state of Florida has installed a series of new signs at its entry points that tout its status as a “free state.”

The Florida Department of Transportation announced the installation of the signs on Tuesday.

“Florida is pleased to announce that the ‘Free State of Florida’ has been placed on all welcome signs offering a warm welcome to visitors as they enter and leave on major state roadways,” reads a statement from FDOT.

In addition to the entry signs that state “Welcome to the Free State of Florida,” the exit signs say “Hurry Back to the Free State of Florida.”

A "Hurry Back to the Free State of Florida" sign greets visitors as they exit the state. (Photo: Florida Department of Transportation)
A “Hurry Back to the Free State of Florida” sign greets visitors as they exit the state. (Photo: Florida Department of Transportation)

The state says the new “Hurry Back” verbiage captures Florida’s status as “a top tourist destination” while simultaneously paying homage to the mid-century welcome centers across the state.

A welcome center in Florida from last century shows the "Hurry Back to Florida" signage made popular over the years. (Photo: Florida Department of Transportation)
A welcome center in Florida from last century shows the “Hurry Back to Florida” signage made popular over the years. (Photo: Florida Department of Transportation)

Locally, Marion County and Ocala officials have been upgrading signage for visitors along major thoroughfares for the past couple of years.

Ocala gateway signage on West Silver Springs Blvd/W State Road 40. (Staff photo)
Ocala gateway signage on West Silver Springs Blvd/W State Road 40. (Staff photo)

Last month, the county announced new gateway signage along Interstate 75. The south gateway on I-75, which is funded entirely by tourist development tax revenue from visitors, will be installed at the 42nd Street flyover to welcome northbound motorists to the county.

Gateway installation on I-75 in Marion County to begin in summer of 2024 (Photo: Ocala/Marion Visitors and Convention Bureau)
The south gateway on I-75 will welcome northbound motorists to Ocala/Marion County. (Photo: Ocala/Marion Visitors and Convention Bureau)

According to the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau, most on-site construction will begin this fall, with the project eyeing an early 2025 completion date.

As part of the same project, earlier this year, the county unveiled gateway signage along I-75 in the form of two pillars denoting “Marion County.”

Marion County gateway signage on I 75
Marion County gateway signage on I-75.

In addition to the pillars and the south gateway, another sign is planned for the gateway at a future interchange just north of Ocala, where the highly anticipated Buc-ee’s Ocala Travel Center is planned.

The gateway project in Marion County is being funded by the Tourist Development Tax, which is paid by visitors who stay in lodging in the county for six months or less.