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Read between the signs: A Central student’s rise to campus fame

Margaux Massey, Staff Reporter - November 14, 2012

When you ask Kasey Peterson what other people think of the signs he carries around, he darts outside, grabs some cardboard, and makes yet another sign: “Talk About Sign Guy.”

It works. Within minutes, several people voice their opinions. “He is such an inspiration,” said Dennis Peters, a freshman musical theater major. “He brightens up my day whenever I see him.”

Peterson, a junior English education major who’s better known as “the Sign Guy,” wanders around campus every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a cardboard sign featuring a clever, funny or inspirational phrase.

He said he got the idea from a picture he saw on the internet of a man sitting on the street with a sign saying, “Tell me your story; I’ll give you a dollar.”

“I really like the personal connection,” Peterson said. “I’ve made such great friends doing this. It’s amazing.”

The signs originally started out as a way for him as a new student on campus to make a few friends, but it turned into much more.

“I never thought it would catch on like it has,” he said. “The fact that people still like me doing it is the greatest thing.”

At first he rejected the name “Sign Guy,” wanting people to know him by his real name. He even walked around one day with a sign saying, “My name is Kasey,” but eventually he gave in and accepted the nickname. Now “Sign Guy” has over 200 likes on Facebook and Peterson’s personal friend count grows daily, much to his surprise.

“I love how outgoing and enthusiastic Kasey is,” Allison Dodge, a freshman psychology major said. “He is so friendly and approachable, the sign was a great idea.”

He comes up with new signs three times a week. He said he gets his ideas from multiple places; students even leave suggestions on his Facebook wall. His one requirement for his sign ideas? “I want to make people smile, even if it’s only for the next 10 seconds,” Peterson said.

With three new signs a week, supplies are crucial. He goes through about one small Sharpie a day, which people who talk to him use to sign the sign. He’s on his third large Sharpie, which is what he uses to write the signs.

The first time his big Sharpie ran out, he said he was upset and was trying to find out where he was going to get a new one. Luckily for him, a friend showed up to class with a ‘surprise’ for him, a brand new big Sharpie.

“I was so excited that I started dancing in class,” Peterson said.

His cardboard comes from an interesting source.

“Well the Central music program recently bought new drums and I was walking buy the building one night and saw a bunch of cardboard outside,” Peterson said.

He called up his friend and had him come help him get as much of it as possible.

Walking around campus with cardboard signs will get anyone some interesting stories, and Peterson has plenty. Peterson said everyone he meets is interesting.

The day he walked around campus with a sign that said “truth or dare,” a football player dared him to take off his shirt, stand on the SURC bridge and bang his chest like Tarzan. Not being a shy person, Peterson complied.

“He was the only one to take that sign seriously,” Peterson said. “Everyone else was daring me to eat things.”

Even students and friends of his have interesting stories to tell about “Sign Guy.”

“I remember when I hit his shoulder when his shoulder was dislocated, and he wept manly tears,” said Shane Thompson, an undeclared freshman who is known to Peterson as “Sweater Man.” “Also, he is very determined to do this every day,”

Not all of Peterson’s stories are silly. The one that stands out to him the most happened when he first started with the signs. On a Facebook picture of his sign saying, “What gets you by?” one of his friends posted about how her mom saw the sign after having a rough year, and it prompted her to make a list of all of the things that she appreciated in life. His friend then told him he changed someone’s life that day.

Hannah Anstine, a sophomore psychology major, said, “I give the sign guy major props for a new sign every day. He makes me smile every day,”

A group of three friends went so far as to agree he was the “sunshine of their bleak existences.”

“He has major dedication and he makes everyone happy. There needs to be more people like him,” Andy Riley, a sophomore education major said.

So how does “Sign Guy” himself feel about his campus fame? “I just want to thank everybody for their support or criticisms,” Peterson said. “I really don’t care. As long as there is a need for someone to be positive, I’ll be there.”

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