NORTH BAY -- Following in the footsteps of cities in southern Ontario, North Bay businesses are competing in a sign war by posting witty messages on their signs. Even local churches, schools, and the city are bringing their "A" game for some friendly competition.

Chris Brown of Flat-Rate Towing has been going back and forth with a few local businesses. His latest target: Travelodge Hotel.

"We do jokes on signs all the time," laughed Brown. "So, we thought we should join in with the local businesses on the fun."

Brown is out changing the Flat-Rate Towing sign each day with silly shots at business friends and other organizations in the city. He's been taking part in the city’s sign war since Cecil’s Brewhouse started it last week.

"Dawn and Natasha in the office came up with up with the concept. They saw it in Sault Ste. Marie," said owner John Lechlitner. "We've been so inundated with stories about COVID-19 and negative news. This is light-hearted and fun."

Very quickly, several other businesses jumped on board. A Facebook page was started and currently has 4,200 members. Currently, over 50 businesses, associations, and schools are coming up with their puns to put on their signs, including the City of North Bay.

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The city posted its witty pun at the Memorial Gardens arena.

North Bay's Calvin Presbyterian Church "We reached out to all of the gardening centres because we want to grow our city #1, and #2, it's that time of season so we had some fun with (the words) house, green, growing, and seed," joked North Bay Mayor Al McDonald.

The Capitol Centre in North Bay chose its targets almost immediately.

"We went after Century 21 Blue Sky Realty and Pellerin Paints. It’s been a lot of fun," said Dan Misturada, the Capitol Centre's interim executive director. "It sheds the light on some of the organizations like ours that are closed down during COVID-19."

Cambrian College School of Business professor Brian Vendramin said once shutdown restrictions lift, many businesses will have to rely on the community to get back on their feet and that this form of "marketing" will help remind the community they are around and ready to accept customers.

"I haven't seen this much creativity in a long time. In this pandemic you need to keep your communication strategy fresh," said Vendramin. "Having this little play with the signs will keep your name front and centre in the consumer's minds."

Brown hopes more businesses and organizations get in on the action so he can playfully roast them.

"There's been a lot of businesses involved. It gives us a sense of humour at a bad time," he said.

As for when the sign war will end, no one knows until the last witty pun is hung up for all to see.