As of Saturday, the eastern portion of U.S. Highway 50 in Sedalia was officially designated as the Scott Joplin Memorial Highway in a dedication ceremony at the Hayden Liberty Center Association for the Arts Inc.
Sedalia Mayor Stephen Galliher said the project was started by state Rep. Steve Cookson, who wanted to know if the city would be interested in having a memorial highway for Sedalia’s well-known country music star Leroy Van Dyke.
“Of course we want to always celebrate our famous people from Sedalia,” Galliher said. “I asked him ‘did you ever consider Scott Joplin?’ I said ‘if we can do one sign we can do two.’”
Cookson went back and wrote another bill to include the Scott Joplin Memorial Highway.
“I had the pleasure and the honor to go down and testify before the committee to do the signs,” Galliher noted. “I was really proud because in two days we raised $2,400 to get the signs made and installed.”
“Raising that during festival time, speaks volumes about how the people who come to the (Scott) Joplin (International Ragtime) Festival support our mission,” said Terri Ballard, executive director of Hayden Liberty Center.
The signs will be installed today by the Missouri Department of Transportation and will be maintained by the state of Missouri.
Galliher added that they were $1,000 short on the Leroy Van Dyke signs but hoped to see those funds come in soon.
Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation President Kathleen Boswell said she wanted to honor the two contributors, David Almquist and the late Larry Carp, who each paid half of the sum for the Scott Joplin signs.
“We were so appreciative of that,” she said. “Larry didn’t live to see this become a reality. So we ordered these small signs … and we already mailed one to Larry’s wife. We told her that we would be doing something special during the festival for him.”
Boswell added they will have the smaller signs on sale during the festival in June 2017.
“We thought this would be something that a lot of the fans would like to have on their wall at home,” she added.
Well-known Ragtime pianist Jeff Barnhart, of Mystic, Connecticut, played Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” before the dedication and he and his wife, Anne, helped Galliher unveil the signs. Barnhart played in a special silent film presentation at the Hayden Center Friday night. On Saturday he performed at the Finkle Theatre in California, Missouri, and Sunday he played at the Scott Joplin House in St. Louis.
“Sedalia’s a place to be proud of,” Galliher said. “I’m very proud of the folks who live here because they step up to the plate when something’s needed. Whether it be the Thanksgiving Day fire that we had or these two signs to honor someone, it’s a great place to live.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.