The annual Pennsylvania Society of News Editors auction features the usual array of Pennsylvania-centric items — craft beers, local wines, history books, baseball tickets, gift certificates and more.
But one bid item is off the beaten path.
It’s a red, white and blue road sign that says: “Welcome to Conoy Twp. This is not a gun free zone,” donated by Elizabethtown Advocate editor Dan Robrish. Bids start at $25.
In early 2015, Conoy Township, in Lancaster County, began to erect the signs on all of the roads leading into town.
“After they got a lot of attention for the signs, they had a bunch of requests for it worldwide,” Robish said. Township supervisors decided to sell additional signs. Today, the signs can be ordered on the township’s website, www.conoytownship.org, for $45 for a small sign or $85 for a large sign. The website also sells T-shirts with the same slogan.
Robrish, who had worked for the AP in Philadelphia for 11 years, started the Elizabethtown Advocate in 2010. This year, the 1,000-circulation weekly finally turned a profit.
“When I reported that I had turned a profit in January, they (the Conoy Township supervisors) got excited,” he said. After Robrish published a photo of himself holding a figure of Moses — “a small prophet” — in his newspaper, supervisors invited him to attend a township meeting.
“I guess they wanted to congratulate me,” he said.
The supervisors decided to honor Robrish by giving him one of the gun-free zone signs, signed on the back in permanent marker by the five township supervisors.
At first, Robrish propped the sign up in the Advocate’s storefront in downtown Elizabethtown. But the sign confused people, he said. “Some questioned whether I was packing a gun in my office,” he said. And a Facebook post, perhaps in jest, wondered whether people had to be armed to visit the newspaper.
After the sign had been up for a month, Robrish figured it had been on display long enough. “I decided I would donate it to the auction,” he said.
The PSNE silent auction benefits the Online Reporter project, which provides scholarships for college students or recent grads to cover the annual Pennsylvania Press Conference.
There are 11 separate auction items. The most expensive opening bid is $250, for 18 tickets donated by Trib Total Media to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play the St. Louis Cardinals on June 12 in a luxury suite at PNC Park. You can also bid on four tickets for the Pirates-Diamondbacks game on May 25 (opening bid $30) or on 18 tickets the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs-Buffalo Bisons game on June 19 (opening bid $100).
Bidding ends at 7 p.m. Winners will be announced at the end of the Keystone Awards banquet.