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Colorful fins and floating channel letters distinguish The Gravity Bar at a Wisconsin casino.
Appleton Sign (Neenah, WI) transformed a ventilation tube into a colorful attraction with gravity-defying channel letters.

Though we all know the laws of physics cannot be broken, the creators of The Gravity Bar signage at the North Star Mohican Resort in Bowler, WI appear to have upended Newton’s laws of motion. The Gravity Bar channel letters seemingly levitate 15 feet in the air against misty colorful fins that glow with various color combinations. Appleton Sign Company (Neenah, WI) created and built this innovative signage, which claimed first place in the Wisconsin Sign Association’s 2019 Sign Design Contest in the individual letters category. 

What started out as a discolored vinyl ventilation tube extending from bar level to ceiling with metal supports was transformed into award-winning signage with custom raceways and colorful fins. Leaving the supports in place, Appleton Sign selected the materials, and designed the logo, fins and the lighting effects to bring this feature to life. “We wanted the scale of the color-changing fins to grab people’s attention from across the casino,” said Eric Cates, co-owner and creative director at Appleton Sign, “and the logo really provides a feeling of the space you’re in.” 

The final design’s 16 acrylic fins are 17 ft. tall and clear the bar by 2 ft. In keeping with the North Star theme, the backlit canvas was digitally printed to mimic a starry sky and wrapped around the metal bars, forming a cylinder with a 5-ft. diameter. Clear acrylic fins, ½ in. thick, project 4 ft. out at the top of the structure and taper to 6 in. out at the base.

Routed and scribed using a Gerber Sabre router, the scribe lines provided a place to overlay 3M and ORAFOL films to further capture edge light for a dimensional effect. Size restrictions on the acrylic dictated that each fin be fabricated as three pieces and installed top to bottom, using through-bolting to aluminum c-channels. Bitro Light-Symphony RGB LEDs were mounted inside the c-channels, which were screwed flush to the metal supports and suspended from the ceiling using aviation cable. The cable also came in handy when supporting the channel letter sign. In all, the RGB LEDs required 16 DMX controllers for 270 ft. of LEDs.

“The casino can select from 30 pre-programmed light shows using a wireless device,” Cates said. “The floating nature of the design really depended on our ability to hide the various controllers, support structures and fasteners from view.” He added that Appleton Sign is seeing RGB LEDs used more frequently, including for the replacement of solid-color letters with color-changing options.

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