Napa Valley Neon Lights Up the Night 

{Photo courtesy of Nick Otto, Napa Valley Register)

When it comes to getting attention, nothing beats a classic neon sign. Glowing with striking brightness, neon signs have been used for advertising in Napa Valley for decades. Yet with the advent of new kinds of lighting technology and signage, today traditional “exposed” neon signs in Napa are fewer and far between.

When you think Napa neon, the Uptown Theatre signs stand above all else. Literally. Six 3-foot-tall letters (U P T O W N) descend vertically along the second story of the venue. This downtown landmark dates back to the opening of the theater in 1937, said theater manager Erica Simpson.

“It’s an honor” to be the caretaker of such a sign, said Simpson. She explained that various artists and electricians have worked on the Uptown sign located at 1350 Third Street, over the years. This past week Jeff Soares of YESCO tended to the Uptown sign. His task included replacing two new transformers, Soares explained, “One for the letter W and one for the letter N.”

Soares said that neon is longer the first choice for signs. Today most people are replacing older neon with LED lights. Notably, LED lights are less expensive than neon, Soares explained. Yet northing looks quite like neon. “Neon has that bling look; that beautiful glassy look. They are not able to achieve that look with LED,” Soares said.

In 2001, Jim Bertuzzi of Benn Signs in Napa completely refurbished about 1,000 feet of neon on the Uptown sign. “There’s a tunnel inside, like a chimney, going all the way to the top,” providing access to all the connections, wiring and transformers that are in the tower, explained Bertuzzi. “I made all the neon tubing from scratch,” said Bertuzzi. “It looks really good when it’s lit up,” he said. “I’m proud of it.”

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