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Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2016

Here's your sign: Ad-spinners draw attention

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sign spinner Anthony Morell greets passing motorists on North Main Street. He says performing on the roadside is a dream job.
(T-G Photo by David Melson) [Order this photo]
Anthony Moreli performs before thousands of people each week -- yet his name's far from a household word.

Fans wave and yell their appreciation -- but, often, glass barriers are raised between him and his audience.

His stage: A narrow strip of concrete. His act: Acrobatics and hand waves, mostly.

His message: A quick sales pitch to people in passing vehicles. In essence, he's a human billboard.

It's Moreli's job -- professionally known as sign spinning -- and he loves every minute of it.


"Oh, man, it's exhilarating," Moreli, of Lewisburg, said Friday while standing alongside North Main Street pitching pizza -- or, more literally, pitching a sign promoting pizza.

"It's like the perfect job. I get to listen to music, dance, interact with people -- it's amazing."

And his audience -- some of them, anyway -- responded with lots of smiles, a few horn blows and some waves.

"I've had people get out, come over and dance with me, act like I'm a celebrity. I don't get it."

A true fan

One appreciative fan had some good words for Moreli.

"I don't know what they pay you, but they don't pay you enough," Sarah Dean of Shelbyville said while stopped near Moreli at a traffic light.

Those words and reactions drive Moreli.

"I see everybody smile. I like to do tricks and brighten people's days."

It's not easy

The tricks -- including twirling the sign atop his head, on a finger, on his feet while he lies on his back -- as well as a lot of dancing and waving take effort and practice, Moreli said.

"I practice an hour and a half every day and try to stretch every day." Moreli said. "I mean, it is physical. I tell people if you survive the first day after all the soreness you can do it."

Moreli has only been spinning signs for about a year, he says, and has advanced quickly.

"I started out doing just a couple of the tricks," Moreli said. "I watched people with bigger signs on YouTube. I got some training and became an instructor for about a year. I learned to do stuff with the big 5-foot signs."

Short breaks

Working for long periods in heat or cold doesn't bother Moreli.

"I take a break about 5 to 10 minutes every hour," Moreli said. "The longest I've ever gone is 4 hours. Sometimes it's so nice I just can't stop."

And there are those unexpected safety breaks...

"When an emergency vehicle goes by I put the sign down so no one is looking at me," Moreli said.

The vibes are practically always positive from passersby.

"I've had a few people jokingly swerve at me," Moreli said. "I've never had a close run-in."

About spinning

The trend started in Southern California -- several advertising companies claim to have originated the concept -- and has spread worldwide over the past few years.

Training schools, such as the one Moreli attended, teach many of the "tricks" of the trade.

Many of those tricks are copyrighted by originating ad agencies.

A typical spinner is paid $9-11 per hour, according to the website signspinning.org.

'Traveling show'

The show will go on for some time, Moreli said.

"I feel like I'm in a traveling show, almost a traveling entertainer.

"You get to have fun when you do this and brighten someone's day. Who could ask for anything more?"

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I have to admit, one day I was passing by on my way to Wal-Mart and I saw one of these guys wearing a suit that made it look like he was riding a ostrich (or at least that is what I thought it was) for the local pet store and it had me laughing for several minutes. Sometimes watching them does put a smile on your face but may times they are at intersections and red lights which can be a distraction. I wonder if an accident has occurred due to someone paying attention to the entertainment and not the road?

-- Posted by jaxspike on Sun, Dec 9, 2012, at 1:34 PM

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