Guidelines for Planning a Dedication and Unveiling Ceremony

Congratulations on successfully nominating a topic for a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker! These familiar silver-and-black signs are official recognition by the State of North Carolina that a traveler is near a site associated with a subject of statewide historical significance. As the applicant it is your prerogative as to whether to hold a program to dedicate the marker and it will be your responsibility to coordinate planning for such a program. However, the Office of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, is pleased to provide these guidelines. We stand ready to assist in making your event successful and memorable.

Planning Steps

  • 1

    Selecting a Date

    Once you have received a letter notifying you about plans to order such a marker, you should expect to allow four to five months to elapse before the marker is delivered. Once the order has been placed with the foundry, the Office of Archives and History will have a projected delivery date. Typically, deliveries for new markers are in April to May and October to November.

  • 2

    Selecting a Location

    A key early decision on the part of applicant/planner will be where to conduct the dedication ceremony or program. With rare exceptions, these are held on or near the permanent site of the sign.

  • 3


    It has been our experience that a marker dedication can vary from the modest, a half-dozen people along the highway primarily for a photo opportunity, to the grand, several thousand in an auditorium, perhaps as part of a separately scheduled event. The typical program lies between those two extremes and it is that which we describe below.

  • 4


    Most event planners have found it useful to prepare a printed program for the day’s agenda. These can be reproduced inexpensively. The program, which might double as an invitation, can be four pages, akin to a church bulletin, or a single sheet of paper either full or half-size. We have digitized several programs as examples: Clapp's Mill, The Iron Steamer (SS Pevensey), and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly.

    You might also depend upon e-mail as your primary means of issuing the invitations.

  • 5


    Such programs vary widely in format but typically open with an emcee (perhaps the applicant), welcome from a local public official, recognition of elected officials and other guests, remarks about the marker program by a representative of Archives and History (participation dependent on travel budget), the keynote speaker, and the actual unveiling. Usually, local planners invite the members of their legislative delegation. 

  • 6


    The Department of Cultural Resources, upon receipt of details, will issue a press release about the upcoming dedication program. Three weeks in advance of the event, please email about the time, place, and speakers on the program.

  • 7


    Shortly after the marker has been approved, the Office of Archives and History will mount on this website an essay about the subject. You might find the essay useful to include in the printed program. We also will list your dedication program among the upcoming events on the website.

  • 8

    The Set-Up

    If many people are expected, you likely will need a public address system, podium, and several chairs (particularly for older guests). Shaded locations are ideal and, if shade is unavailable, you may to wish to use a party tent as cover.

  • 9

    Length of Program

    Ideally, the program will be around 20-30 minutes, variable depending on circumstances such as seating and the weather. The keynote speaker might be allowed ten minutes with all others limited to 3-5 minutes. Remember, the comfort of those who attend the program should be taken into account.

  • 10


    Since such programs usually are conducted alongside the highway, public safety must be a prime consideration. You might inquire about the availability of a policeman or sheriff’s deputy for the duration of the program. Special care must be taken when people are crossing the highway.

  • 11

    The Cover

    The Office of Archives and History can provide a specially designed cloth to cover the sign for the duration of the program. When the Department of Transportation employees erect the marker, they likely will leave it covered with cardboard. The Archives and History representative will aim to arrive early and replace the cardboard with the cover.

  • 12

    The Reveal

    The actual unveiling is the culmination of the program. Planners should select one or more special attendees to remove the cover.

  • 13


    It will be your option as to whether to plan a reception afterwards for those in attendance.