Lovell’s Horseshoe Bend Motel Neon Sign To Get Restored From American Express

The iconic sign at the Horseshoe Bend Model in Lovell was immortalized at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York back in 1973. Now, thanks to a grant from American Express, the sign will get professionally restored.

Renée Jean

June 30, 20246 min read

The iconic Horseshoe Bend Motel sign in Lovell, Wyoming, is going to get a facelift.
The iconic Horseshoe Bend Motel sign in Lovell, Wyoming, is going to get a facelift. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

The iconic Horseshoe Bend Motel’s neon sign in Lovell has long been a popular photography subject since famous photographer Stephen Shore immortalized it in a Metropolitan Museum of Art photo when he was just 24.

Shore came through Lovell back in the 1970s. The photo he took with the sign is a confluence of ordinary things coming together to make an extraordinary piece of art. A rainbow arcs against the sky in the photo, while a dark-colored vintage car takes up the foreground.

The motel sign is turned slightly sideways in the background as a corner of the motel juts out. A just-rained feeling glistens throughout the photo, tying everything together like magic.

Shore sold his iconic photograph to the museum for $40,000, likely in the ’70s, and it also appears in the pages of his book “Uncommon Places.”

Shore also sent a copy of the print to the motel’s present owner, Bobbi Jo McJunkin, after a little detective work to find out why so many people take photographs of the hotel’s old neon sign.

A Whole Motel Revamp

The Horsehoe Bend Motel still lights up at night — thanks to a sign company that was passing through and did some preliminary repair work on the cheap — but it still needs a paint job to stop it from weathering, as well as other fixes.

The lights also have a tendency to go out any time there is strong wind, which is just about every other night.

McJunkin has been in the midst of a total revitalization of the Horseshoe Bend Motel on something of a shoestring budget. So she hasn’t had the money to give the sign the facelift she’d like.

Now, however, thanks to a $10,000 grant from American Express, McJunkin will be able to do some vintage restoration on the sign this year, as well as create a community space on the motel grounds using a salvaged grain silo.

Just 500 businesses across the country won one of these grants, which are intended to help them give back to their communities. Winning the grant has also made McJunkin’s motel eligible for a much larger $30,000 grant competition down the line, which would do a lot to boost her efforts to restore the motel.

“I am beyond excited about this,” McJunkin told Cowboy State Daily. “I’m going to keep the sign still very vintage. It’s not going to look brand-new because I’m doing vintage vacations. But it’s going to be like this little beacon, and we’re going to paint it and redo the bulbs and the neon and that kind of stuff.

Stephen Shore's iconic 1973 photo of the Horseshoe Bend Motel, including its unique sign, hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is featured in his book, "Uncommon Places."
Stephen Shore's iconic 1973 photo of the Horseshoe Bend Motel, including its unique sign, hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is featured in his book, "Uncommon Places." (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Sign in demand

McJunkin has had offers upward of $50,000 for the neon sign.

That would go a long way toward helping restore the hotel, McJunkin acknowledged. But something inside her just cannot let go of that sign.

Plus, a new sign would not be in keeping at all with the transport-you-back-in-time vibe she wants for the Horseshoe Bend Motel.

McJunkin took over the aging motel from her father recently so he could retire, and she has been restoring it bit by bit ever since, starting with a total gutting of all of the rooms.

Each refinished room has a different, fun theme, with the idea of transporting guests to a special place in their mind.

“I have an astronaut Lovell room, and I have one that has famous Yellowstone photographer Ansel Adams,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “I have a cowboy room, and I’m going to have a Stephen Shore room.”

That room will get a copy of the famous photo Shore took of the sign.

“The theme of this whole place is really off of that sign,” McJunkin said. “Everything that has been planned for this motel remodel is all stuff around that sign.”

McJunkin is working with a sign company out of Sheridan to restore the sign to full functionality.

“I want to keep it really authentic to the past, and true to what it is,” she said. “I love that it’s weathered. So, it’s not going to be bright and neon like a McDonald’s sign. But it will be preserved.”

And when the wind blows, it won’t go out at night anymore, McJunkin added.

“We’re going to stop the weathering process and paint the letters so when it’s lit at night it’s not going to be half brown going up to the ‘M’,” McJunkin said. “But when people come home, they’re still gonna be like, ‘I remember that sign.’ It’s not going to look like a new business.”

The Horseshoe Bend Motel at night.
The Horseshoe Bend Motel at night. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Part of a trend

Horseshoe Bend is part of a larger tourism revitalization effort in Lovell that has included other motel restorations, and even the addition of a new restaurant, the Overlook

“We have this incredible area for tourism, but we didn’t have a lot of rooms and availability for hospitality,” McJunkin said.

In addition to the restored hotels and the new restaurant, biking trails are coming down the line, as well as a project that’s going to let people float all the way from Thermoplis to Lovell.

These are just a few of the many things Lovell has been doing to increase its tourism, and get the word out about an area whose recreation opportunities may be less well known, are no less cool

“There’s lots of little projects going on, and (Lovell) is getting to be quite a thing,” McJunkin said. “And I love that part of this grant is giving back to the community and helping small businesses. I think everyone’s kind of struggling in these times, and especially when you’re going through a remodel and have to replace everything, this was just an incredible opportunity to get that kind of help.”

When her project is completed, McJunkin envisions an outdoor seating area for those enjoying the food trucks she allows to park in the motel’s parking lot.

The silo, too, is an old thing from the community that she’s repurposing.

“It was by the railroad tracks and they had torn it down,” McJunkin said. “Repurposing is a big thing to me. If I can repurpose anything I will. So that is really cool, because it’s from our community, from our area.”

For McJunkin, it’s all about seeing old things in a new way, and bringing people together. And her sign, more than anything else, is a symbol of how that light is shining anew in Lovell.

Renée Jean can be reached at

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter