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Mourners Bids Fond Adieu to Uptown Arby’s Sign

“Oh Arby’s sign, the meats, the meats are calling,” sang a group of mourners to the tune of “Danny Boy.” The crowd was gathered February 9 in the parking lot of a recently shuttered Arby’s restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis.

A few hundred people stopped by to pay their respects to the vintage Arby’s sign, a monstrous neon hat, that had been at the site for 47 years.

Most were there just to get a selfie for Instagram and wish each other good will—“rest in beef” was a common refrain. In all, the memorial for the 47-year-old restaurant was among the silliest vigils in history.

Attendees held candles, they held posters commemorating the sign and even marched one final procession through the drive-thru as one organizer belted, “Do you want curly fries with that?” through a handheld loudspeaker. And while the sign has already departed to be auctioned off, there was a ghostly image of the neon hat projected on a sheet. Fire dancers and grief counselors were also on hand. Many mourners, however, chose to sip from flasks in lieu of counseling.

Organizer Noah Hevey admitted it was all really, really strange, but for him and other Uptown residents, the sign really did hold a little significance.

“It’s an Uptown landmark. I grew up in the suburbs, so when we came into town, this is how we got around,” said Hevey.

For others, the 10-foot-tall, 10-gallon hat was a reminder of the quirky neighborhood that once was, before the condos and corporate retail poured into the area. As the story goes, developers bought the land home to Arby’s, ending the lease and forcing the restaurant to shut down. And a few recalled some drunken Uptown nights that ended beneath the orange glow of the sign—hazy memories of beef and cheddar nightcaps.

Hevey said he had no idea the event would resonate as much as it did. He created the event online on a Friday evening and on the day of what was called the “Candlelight vigil for the Uptown Arby’s sign,” more than 5,000 people had expressed interest on Facebook. He appeared on several radio shows and was interviewed by a handful of local media organizations.

Arby’s, of course, jumped in for the organic good will. The brand contacted Hevey, sending T-shirts and sandwich gift cards. The president of Arby’s sent along a thank you to the super fans who braved the cold, reminding them of the other 60 Minneapolis-area Arby’s at which they could redeem those gift cards.

For anyone wishing to sing a mournful song in solidarity, here are the full lyrics of “Arby’s Sign” sung to the tune of “Danny Boy.”

Oh Arby’s Sign, the meats, the meats are calling
With curly fries and all the tasty sides
The sign is gone and now I will be bawling 
‘Tis you ‘tis you, must go and I must bide
But come the back when hunger’s in the belly
Or when the City’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Arby’s Sign, oh Arby’s Sign, I love you so
Of you I dream, oh when the night is falling
And then I’m fed, as fed as I may well be
I pray you find the place where I am lying
And kneel and place an Arby’s there for me
And I will know the sixty other metro locations
And so my plate still warm and sweet shall be
For you shall serve and show me that you love me
And I will eat in peace, oh Arby’s come to me.  

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