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A Labor of Love: The True Story of Orange County’s New LOVEwork

A look behind the scenes into the creation of Orange County’s new LOVE artwork!

Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. In fact, the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers” has been in use for more than 45 years, and is one of the most recognizable tourism slogans nationwide. We’ve known for years that Orange County has as much to love as anywhere in the Commonwealth, so we decided to make it official by creating a unique location for visitors to turn memories they love into photos they can share with loved ones!

Our LOVEwork is designed to foster lasting memories and great stories, so it is only too fitting that it has a great story of its own. It is a story of challenges, triumphs, and fun. The first challenge was obviously the concept. We wanted it to be representative of Orange County while still instantly recognizable as part of the larger statewide program. To solve this, we reached out to Stokes of England Blacksmiths for an artistic concept, while our Orange County Tourism staff worked with Town of Orange Community Development on the scaling and location details. This approach got everyone invested in seeing the project completed properly. The next challenge came out of a desire to “spread the love.” Our LOVEwork may not look like it, but it is designed to be mobile so that it can be used onsite at events. However, creating a statue or piece of art that is both secure and mobile is a pretty significant challenge, and it took several back and forth designs between all parties before the final locking system was figured out. Each of our letters is individual, but a series of interlocking mechanisms in their base stands allow them to be secure no matter whether the artwork is out and about at local events or being a homebody at its base location in Taylor Park, Orange, VA.

Production at Stokes of England went smoothly according to owner, Stephen Stokes, but you can imagine that it is tricky to maneuver around four giant letters in your shop. Speaking of smooth moves, during production, Stephen was interviewed by a magazine writer who was interested in some of his current projects, to which he happily replied that he was spending his time “making LOVE.” We’re pretty sure that wasn’t the answer the writer expected but it showcases the fun that those involved had while working on the project. We believe that spirit of fun helped make the final product so stunning. You may have seen other LOVEworks at welcome centers and localities throughout Virginia. Our LOVEwork is consistent with the statewide message, but from the beginning we wanted it to reflect some of what makes Orange County such a great destination. To that end, the L represents the rich legal history to be found here in the home of James Madison, father of the Constitution. The O is shaped like a cannon wheel, representing the Civil War and Orange County’s involvement in all four years of the conflict. The V represents the many vines from which our world class wine is produced, and the E represents the equestrian culture and history of the area. We believe the LOVEwork is a testament to the great visitor opportunities in Orange County.

Storing the finished letters with the home base under construction was a bit troublesome, and some lucky folks saw them in front of Stokes of England’s Keswick shop before the official unveiling in Orange. They attracted so much attention there that one vehicle nearly drove off the road while checking them out. This brings up an important point, while Orange County Tourism certainly encourages you to enjoy our LOVEwork, please be sure to safely park your vehicle first. To help prevent accidents or logjam in front of the shop we secretly moved the letters to storage. Well.. we moved them as discretely as you possibly can when moving four massive members of the alphabet on a trailer. The Town of Orange Public Works Department then picked them up for final measurements to complete the home base. In a demonstration of efficiency, their department completed the concrete base structure at an impressive pace. So fast, in fact, that we hadn’t even officially announced the unveiling. Too large to easily store, the letters needed to be placed on their base, so we covered them with a tasteful tarp until the unveiling on October 20, 2016. The suspense was palpable while waiting for the reveal. We finally unveiled the artwork in front of multiple staff, local dignitaries, and business owners. In a flurry of serendipity, blacksmith Stephen Stokes and his wife had just returned from celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary and were able to become one of the first couples to take a photograph with the LOVEwork at the unveiling; which happened to take place on the anniversary of the date they first met. You can’t make this stuff up. We hope our LOVEwork continues to help couples, families, and friends celebrate the love that comes with every Virginia vacation. We encourage you to visit Orange County, VA and take a picture with our new LOVEwork. For more information about finding our LOVEwork, visit its page. Be sure to spread the love on social media using #LOVEOCVA and #LOVEVA!

One of the earliest sketches of the LOVEwork. The base structure of the LOVEwork during construction. The completed LOVEwork. One of the first couple pictures at the LOVEwork!