Iconic Lander Neon ‘Roadrunner’ Sign Saved By Museum Owner In Gillette, Will Be Restored To Neon Glory

The iconic 1960s Lander Holiday Lodge “Roadrunner” sign will be restored to all its neon glory. The owner of the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, Wyoming purchased the sign, will bring it back to life, and install it on the side of the building.

WC
Wendy Corr

June 17, 20235 min read

The iconic 1960s neon Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign in Lander, Wyoming.
The iconic 1960s neon Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign in Lander, Wyoming. (Courtesy Wyoming Catholic College)

Since it first opened in 1961, the Holiday Lodge – located at the intersection of Highways 287 and 789 – welcomed travelers to Lander with an iconic neon sign featuring a cheerful font and bright red roadrunner.  

But times change, and buildings get sold. When the Wyoming Catholic College required more space to house students, the defunct hotel was the perfect answer, and the college purchased the Holiday Lodge last fall. 

However, officials at the college weren’t sure what to do with the sign, which still adorned the side of the building when they bought it – and which caused some confusion, according to Joseph Susanka, Vice President of Advancement at Wyoming Catholic College. 

“We didn’t have the vacancy sign up, but every now and then folks would drift by and wonder if they could find a place to stay for the night,” Susanka told Cowboy State Daily. “As we converted to student housing, that sign was not going to be appropriate.” 

But Susanka said the college was hesitant to discard a piece of Lander’s cultural history. 

“It is a beautiful sign, and really beautiful craftsmanship,” he said. “I hadn't really thought much about neon signs until this started to happen and I was up there working on it. It's a very beautiful old sign, and people don't make those kinds of things very much anymore.” 

Finding A New Home For An Old Sign 

Lucas Preble, Vice President of Student Affairs at the College, was unwilling to simply remove and trash the sign.  

“Obviously, the sign couldn’t remain at the Lodge as we began our renovations, but the idea of tearing it down and tossing it aside was a hard one to swallow,” said Preble. “When a local contractor mentioned the Frontier Relic Museum to us and helped me hunt down Mr. Wandler’s contact info, I was thrilled.” 

Jeff Wandler is the owner of the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette. The privately-owned and curated collection started out as a passion instilled in Wandler by his father, who collected old Hudson automobiles.  

“I grew up around it, and then he and I started buying gas pumps and signs and globes, all the stuff that had to do with gas stations and advertising,” Wandler told Cowboy State Daily. 

Wandler’s collection became increasingly large and impressive (“I ended up just buying literally hundreds of signs and a few hundred gas pumps and hundreds of globes,” he said), so he decided to take his hobby to town. 

“We had it all out at our ranch, and nobody got to see it,” said Wandler. “I decided that it should be on public display so that it would have some type of purpose besides just a collecting addiction, so I bought the old Ford dealership in downtown Gillette in 2015.” 

  • Hoiliday Lodge sign Holiday Lodge Old Ad2 6 17 23
  • The iconic 1960s neon Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign in Lander, Wyoming.
    The iconic 1960s neon Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign in Lander, Wyoming. (Courtesy Wyoming Catholic College)
  • Hoiliday Lodge sign Holiday Lodge Old 2 6 17 23
  • Hoiliday Lodge sign Holiday Lodge Old 1 6 17 23

Relocating A Really Big Neon Sign 

Susanka said both the college and Wandler were pleased that the sign was in such good condition. 

“I think there were only two breaks in it,” he said.  

Wandler and his crew spent a day disassembling and removing the sign in late May and then transported it 270 miles to its new home at the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette. That’s where he plans to repair, restore, and eventually feature the giant neon sign. 

“We have lots and lots of neon signs,” Wandler said. “We're trying to rescue Wyoming ones specifically, historic ones from Wyoming.”  

But Wandler said the massive Holiday Lodge sign was just a bit TOO big for a traditional display. 

“It’s so big that we can’t get it inside,” said Wandler.  

So the historic neon sign will be taking up a place of honor on the outside of the Frontier Auto Museum building. 

“It'll be on the outside of our building where you park to come into the building,” said Wandler. “It'll be right on the front of the building.” 

But he said no one should expect to see the iconic Holiday Lodge sign on display anytime soon. 

“It's going to definitely take us a while to get a backdrop and some of the glass fixed and those types of things,” said Wandler. 

Saved From the 'Ash Heap Of History' 

Susanka said he’s very pleased that the relic wasn’t “just thrown in the ash heap of history.” 

“I’m glad that it’s not just gone,” he said. “Our students do a lot of outdoor trips, and Lucas has talked to students already about figuring out some way for us to stop by and see what it looks like in its new habitat.” 

And Preble agreed. 

“We’re glad that the old bird survives to live another day,” he said, “and we’re grateful to Jeff and his crew for helping us to preserve it.”  

  • The Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign will hardly be the only neon featured at the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, Wyoming.
    The Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign will hardly be the only neon featured at the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, Wyoming. (Frontier Auto Museum)
  • Hoiliday Lodge sign Auto Museum Sign Storage 6 17 23
  • The Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign will hardly be the only neon featured at the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, Wyoming.
    The Holiday Lodge "Roadrunner" sign will hardly be the only neon featured at the Frontier Auto Museum in Gillette, Wyoming. (Frontier Auto Museum)

Wendy Corr can be reached at Wendy@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Wendy Corr

Features Reporter