For most people, a holiday message posted on the back fence would be a pretty private affair, something only a few neighbors might see.
But Sarah Shackleton's yard backs onto Highway 65, so thousands of people view the lighted sign she displays each Christmas: "WISEMEN STILL SEEK JESUS."
The tradition started 15 years ago, when Shackleton encountered the message on a Christmas card. "I liked it. It grabbed me," she said. "That says a lot in a little."
She scaled up the greeting-card phrase with large, hand-drawn letters on her first sign that year. "I just wanted to put out the message about the reason for the season," Shackleton said.
Lots of locals have made positive comments over the years, she said, even offering help with hanging the sign up (it's not heavy) on the back of her fence, where it faces the state highway right of way. But she has also had the sign torn down and defaced.
Shackleton is on her third sign bearing the same message. Her second version fell down last year and then disappeared.
This year's version is new and improved, she said. Her freehand lettering was never quite even in the past, but this time with a friend's projector she was able to get the words nice and straight.
No one from the government has talked to her about the sign. She suspects that if the sign was advertising something, "the City of Fridley might get weirded out"—but not for a Christmas sign. And the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which has cracked down on commercial signs elsewhere in the state highway system, hasn't said a thing.
The sign is a big board of hard foam, the kind sold for insulation that doesn't easily catch fire. It comes with a shiny surface, and Shackleton pokes tiny Christmas bulbs through the letters to make it legible after dark. She said she puts it up in early December and leaves it there through the first week of January "so all the people driving by on New Year's see it."