It’s the end of the road for Livingston’s longtime city motto “The Last Stop,” a reference to a long-ago traffic signal that once stopped motorists on Highway 99.
The City Council agreed Tuesday that it will replace the outdated slogan with a new motto honoring the community’s most celebrated crop. Livingston will tout itself as “The Sweet Potato Capital.”
The change comes just ahead of the city’s Sweet Potato Festival, which is to celebrate its fourth anniversary in October.
“Our identity is sweet potatoes and we are an agricultural community,” said Gurpal Samra, the city’s mayor pro tem.
Until the 1990s, Livingston had the last stoplight on Highway 99, according to Kathleen Crookham, a former Merced County supervisor. “Just imagine (Highway) 99 with a stoplight today,” she said.
It wasn’t immediately clear when the city adopted the motto but, for decades, the stoplight was a landmark everyone used as a frame of reference when giving directions in town, Crookham said.
Our identity is sweet potatoes and we are an agricultural community
Gurpal Samra, Livingston mayor pro tem
Many residents, however, are too young to remember the stoplight, leaving some scratching their heads trying to understand the motto, Samra said. For some, it may even carry a negative connotation, he said, so the city could benefit from a rebranding.
In changing the motto, the city would change the seal, which has images of traffic signals around the words “The Last Stop.” The council also wants to adjust a map of California on the seal to move a star to better reflect Livingston’s location in the Valley.
Livingston won’t be the first place to claim the sweet potato title. Vardaman, Miss., a town of about 1,300 people, calls itself “The Sweet Potato Capital of the World.” But the City Council brushed off any concerns about the new motto not being original.
California is the country’s third-largest sweet potato producer, behind North Carolina and Mississippi, according to the California Sweetpotato Council, and 95 percent of the state’s crop comes from the Livingston area. Samra noted the types of sweet potatoes grown in California differ from those produced in the South.
95 percentThe amount of California sweet potatoes grown in the Livingston area
Councilman Alex McCabe, who supports the new motto, said the city could roll out the new seal over time to spread out the costs of making the change.
The seal with the old motto is on City Council chamber walls, city vehicles, street signs and city uniforms, to name a few places.
The council instructed city staff members to design an alternate city seal and draw up the necessary ordinance for the change, which could go before the council as early as next month. No official vote on the change took place Tuesday.
The Livingston Sweet Potato Festival is set for Oct. 2-4 at the Max Foster Sports Complex, 2600 Walnut Ave. Planned are carnival rides, live bands, baking contests, a bike exhibition and other attractions.
For more on the festival, go to www.livingstoncity.com.