Giant Bratwurst Sign for Grand Champion Meats (UPDATED)

Giant Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meats
The new attention-grabbing sign at Grand Champion Meats features a giant EPS bratwurst atop it.

Traffic driving past Grand Champion Meats is now being greeted by quite a sight—a giant bratwurst resting atop grilling fork prongs that host an illuminated sign cabinet and electronic message center (EMC).

Grand Champion Meats is an award-winning, five-decades-old meat market and butcher shop located in Foley, Minnesota. The owner had been using a single-pole-mounted LED-illuminated sign cabinet stacked atop a Watchfire EMC and attached to a six-inch-round steel pipe with an existing plate grade.

A lot of cars are already driving past Grand Champion Meats, but the owner wanted to step up their game and make the sign look even more appealing. That way, people wouldn’t be able to resist making a pit-stop!

The owner contacted Indigo Signs, a complete full-service sign company headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota (with six other locations across Minnesota and North Dakota). “He wanted a sign that would be very noticeable—and very memorable—so that lots of people would stop and take pictures next to it,” says Bob Wolfe, an Indigo Signs account executive.

Giant Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meats
The previous Grand Champion Meats sign.

Initial renderings of possible signage had been drawn up back in 2020 with Indigo Signs before Wolfe became involved; however they were deemed mechanically unusable because of wind load issues with the existing steel pole and cabinets already attached to it. Other designs featured elements separate from the sign and installed next to it.

Wolfe and his team were tasked with adapting a design that the customer had provided and making it structurally feasible. After a thorough assessment, they determined that a new footing for the pole was necessary, and they also worked on improving the overall visual appeal of the design.

Given that Grand Champion Meats places a significant emphasis on their bratwurst product, Indigo Signs sought to incorporate this into the sign rendering.

Their solution involved a grilling fork handle that would cover the previously exposed steel pole, giving the appearance of two grilling fork prongs jutting through the double-sided EMC and illuminated sign cabinet. The highlight of the design was a 49-inch-tall-by-143.75-inch-wide bratwurst skewered by the two grilling fork prongs.

Giant Bratwurst Sign
Initial sign renderings were deemed mechanically unusable because of wind load concerns.

The new wind-load engineering solution required their sign redesign to start with a single pole at the bottom then evolve to two poles towards the top. The sign company would be able to re-use the existing EMC, but the plate-mounted, but they needed to recreate the extruded sign cabinet for better structural integrity, in order to host the twelve-foot-long bratwurst.

Indigo Signs solved this by putting a ten-by-ten-inch steel spreader bar inside the illuminated cabinet that would host two four-by-four-inch steel tube poles acting as the grilling fork prongs. This approved, mouth-watering redesign not only excited Grand Champion Meats but also Indigo Signs. They couldn’t wait to start working on it.

Since Indigo Signs would handle the reconstruction of the illuminated sign cabinet and the new sign poles, they approached Signs By Benchmark, a noted interior and exterior foam-core manufacturer, to handle the decorative elements. The Watertown, South Dakota-based company also found themselves eager to sculpt the oversized bratwurst and grilling fork handle out of expanded polystyrene (EPS).

Giant Bratwurst Sign
Initial sign renderings were deemed mechanically unusable because of wind load concerns.

“We have a great relationship with Indigo Signs, having worked with them on numerous projects over the years,” says Jamie Kakacek, senior designer at Signs By Benchmark, “so we both understood the challenges involved. Each project creates its own unique challenges, and we can use those learned processed on projects moving forward.”

Signs By Benchmark used aged one-pound-density EPS for the new sign pieces. “Since we weren’t supporting anything on top of our product, our nominal density seemed adequate for this application,” states Kakacek.

The company hot wire-cut the EPS into the general shape of the bratwurst and then sculpted it further to give it a rounded look. “Cooked brats are not very smooth, so we didn’t need to focus on getting a perfectly round shape,” says Kakacek. “Some irregularity works in our favor.”

Giant Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meats
The company hot-wire cut the EPS into the general shape of the bratwurst.

During the initial design phase, Signs By Benchmark worked closely with Indigo Signs to build a central frame for the bratwurst. “Not only did this add some structural integrity to our product, but it also allowed them to be able to attach [it] to the cabinet frame,” explains Kakacek.

The bottom handle section was cut into various pieces and assembled to fit around the central mounting pole. “Once assembled, we cut a radius on the corners to soften up the look of the handle,” says Kakacek.

Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meants
Signs By Benchmark used a water-based paint system to give a detailed, realistic appearance.

The customer originally asked Indigo Signs about doing a color match for the grilled brat. “I told him that I could grill up some brats and do some color matching from that,” remarks Wolfe, “but I figured it would be better to give Signs By Benchmark a creative license to just run with it. They haze over, airbrush, and texture things a certain way. It was amazing to watch them put the little textured grill marks into the EPS bratwurst then paint and enhance the finished product even further.”

Signs By Benchmark used a water-based paint system to give all the pieces a detailed, realistic appearance. Amazingly Signs By Benchmark free-handed the wood grain into the fork handle’s appearance just working off a tablet loaded with Googled images.

Giant Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meats
Signs By Benchmark used their tablet to freehand the wood grain the fork handle portion.

“The grain on the wood and the colors on the bratwurst needed to blend together. Fortunately we have quite a bit of experience using water-based paints,” says Kakacek. “Upon completion, we applied a high-gloss clear coat to give the parts a bit more of a sheen, which really allowed the bratwurst to resemble fresh meat hot off the grill.”

Kakacek says the grilling fork handle weighs approximately 75 to 100 pounds, while the bratwurst (minus the interior frame) came in around 150 pounds. They mounted the pieces inside a crate and shipped everything back to Indigo Signs.

Giant Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meats
The finished fork handle.

Installation went smoothly and took less than a day. The eight-by-eight-inch single pole had already been encased in a concrete caisson and installed 108 inches below grade.

The grilling fork handle covering expands the pole’s appearance now to twenty inches wide. “It has a central sleeve to slide over the main mounting pole,” explains Kakacek. “We then incorporated metal into the top of the handle so that it could be attached to the frame on site to minimize any movement.”

Indigo Signs installers used crane and basket trucks to slide the grilling fork handle over the pole first and then set the electronic message center. “The EMC was already mounted to the framework, so we just slid it over the top of the pole,” says Wolfe. “We then just had to make sure it was perfectly level to the grade.”

Giant Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meats
Setting up the trucks and cranes for installation.

The illuminated cabinet was then slid over the pole and attached to the ten-by-ten-inch steel tube spreader bar that eased the transition from a single pole to a double pole. “The cabinets mounted well to it,” remarks Wolfe.

The bratwurst frame was built with a match plate system that bolts to the top of the cabinet. “We then built the top points of the tongs out of foam so they could bolt into the pick point locations and complete the look,” says Kakacek.

Indigo Signs fabricated a threaded bolt that was welded into the top tabs of the two prongs to hold the Benchmark brat.

Giant Bratwurst Sign Grand Champion Meats
Lifting the giant bratwurst into place.

“Once we got the actual bratwurst set on the two poles, we took the two points of the forks and basically screwed them into the top of the brat,” explains Wolfe. “The top of the brat is kind of curved, but they had a couple of flat areas in there.

“Our installers lined up the two prongs and started spinning them. And just like that, they were done!”

Giant bratwurst sign grand champion meats
The new sign has brought extra attention and photo opportunities to Grand Champion Meats.

Everything was then wired to the required power supplies so the cabinet could be illuminated that very night.

Grand Champion Meats has really gone the extra mile with their new twenty-five-foot-tall sign that literally shows off their delicious products. People can’t seem to get enough of the sign, frequently taking selfies and photos in front of it. Its first month alone generated a massive, off-the-chart amount of engagement on social media.

“Everyone was happy—the customer, the public, Signs By Benchmark,” says Wolfe, “and us!”

EDITOR’S NOTE: A portion of this story involving the original design of the bratwurst and grilling fork has been updated since the initial posting.