BY MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN – The Plum Beach Lighthouse license plate, with its handsome rendering of the historic fireplug-style beacon, has been voted the first runner-up in a national contest sponsored by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.
Dave Zapatka, president of Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse, says the plate was nominated in early March and by mid-April he was informed of the honor.
“It was the best finish for a specialty plate,” he notes. “There had never been one in the top five.”
A billboard located near the Warren Street exit off southbound off Route 95, proclaiming the plate was voted the “Best Specialty Plate in America” was a slight exaggeration and got the Friends in hot water with the Providence Journal’s PolitiFact column which is designed to verify or debunk public statements.
Technically, Zapatka admits, there was no separate vote for a specialty plate but by finishing second to a general tag – a turquoise and gold creation from New Mexico – the Plum Beach design really was the best of its kind.
“It’s deductive reasoning,” he says, and a good public relations tool to raise awareness and sales of the plate which underwrites the cost of maintaining the lighthouse which had fallen into disrepair.
July 23 marks the first anniversary of the plate’s release and Zapatka says nearly 4,500 orders have been placed, many by admirers who have seen it adorning the cars of friends and neighbors.
“We had 425 orders last August, the highest number since we started. This June there were 225. We’re in the 200 range every month. We’ve handed out 10,000 applications in the past year and more have been downloaded online.”
The Friends receive $20 from every plate sold for $41.50.
“It’s our largest source of income,” Zapatka says. “It enables us to sign a contract for yearly maintenance. Two to three days a crew will go out, sand the rust and oil the parts and give it the care it needs.”
A plaque featuring a depiction of the plate will be presented during a ceremony to be held by the Governor’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Zapatka plans to ask the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce to display the plaque in its Post Road headquarters.
For more information about preserving the Plum Beach Lighthouse go to www.pblplate.org .
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .