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Magic Kingdom

(February 2017) posted on Wed Feb 22, 2017

Old school neon creates new school shades in Orlando.

By Dale Salamacha

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In and around Orlando’s Walt Disney World resort, the appearance and theming of signs, as well as material selections, colors, engineering and installation methods, are all governed – strictly – by the Mouse, via The Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).

The RCID is the immediate governing jurisdiction for the land Disney occupies in Florida plus a few other occupants of its 39 sq. miles, including gas stations, restaurants and hotels. With more than 145,000 hotel rooms, Orlando has the second-highest number of rooms in the nation – right behind Vegas. And the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace is where our story begins.

A major hotel renovation was underway, including a 12 x 18-ft. sign for the new Shades Pool Bar and Restaurant to be mounted on a rooftop parapet high above the crowd.

When we learned the owners requested neon, we jumped at the chance to work on this project. Requests for neon have dwindled in recent years, but no matter how good other lighting sources are, there’s nothing quite like exposed neon tubing to get you excited! So we called in fellow Orlandoan Randy Whitt at South Atlantic Neon, one of the last remaining neon shops in central Florida.

This sign was to read “SHADES” in 40-in.tall, 8-in. deep, reverse aluminum channel letters. The letters were deeply dimensional but were non-lit, as double-stroke 15mm turquoise glass would be installed on the teal letter faces, outlining the letter shapes.

Sitting behind the letters was a giant 6 x 16-ft. pair of Wayfarer shades. These sunglasses were fabricated as a 5-in.-deep welded aluminum cabinet, featuring single stroke, 15mm horizon blue neon tracing the outer shape. The lenses themselves were cut out and backed with translucent white Lexan with teal vinyl accents. The interior of the cabinet was lit with bright white Hanley LEDs. The glasses were tilted at an angle and would soon be mounted proud of the parapet roofline, requiring a 2-in. aluminum, square tube framework to support the weight and the increased wind load of these massive spectacles.


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