Banner Art Studio at the Heart of 22 Year International Mystery (Solved!)

On Monday, the Durango Herald published a feature story on Banner Art Studio’s main street banner that went missing in 1990. Like all of our banners, this is certainly a well-known, loved and memorable banner with a story to tell. Its colorful history seems to have even symbolized ownership. Stolen in the night and then journeying across the Atlantic and back, it may have been seen as identifying the real host of the first ever World Championship of Mountain Biking. You be the judge.

Jeremy Thompson and Charlie Domas at Mountain Bike Specialists in Durango unfold the recovered banner. Photo Credit: DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

As the story goes, the World Mountain Bike Championships, the first mountain bike competition to be sanctioned by an international governing body, were held in Durango, Colorado in 1990. The banner, one of two made by Banner Art Studio for the event, was a centerpiece marking the event’s Start/Finish line.

From our archives: Banner displayed in Durango near Strater Hotel, 1990

That weekend when everyone at the festival awoke after a freak blizzard, the banner had gone missing in the night. People searched high and low, and it seemed as though the banner would never be found.

“The local organizing committee felt violated by the ‘prank,’” Ed Zink, founder of Specialized Bikes, is quoted in the Durango Herald as saying.

For the next 22 years, the banner’s location was a mystery.

From the archives: Banner Art Studio design at World MTB Championships, Durango CO 1990

Fast forward to June 2012, when the father of Mountain Biking and 6-year National Mountain Bike Championship winner, Ned Overend is in the French Alps. Overend was visiting Villard-de-Lans, France for a festival commemorating the other first world championship for mountain biking (a race he won).

Much to his surprise, during the festivities Overend spots Durango’s lost banner strung across the main street of Villard-de-Lans. Ned’s negotiations to bring it home begin.

Ned Overend's own picture as shown in the Durango Herald

The backstory is that a racer from the 1990 Durango competition took the banner back to Southern California as a “big souvenir”. German mountain-bike stunt performer and celebrity Hans “No Way” Rey, who lives in Los Angeles, had somehow discovered the identity of the thief and the location of the banner. Rey brought the banner to Europe to be displayed at the festival in Villard-de-Lans, but won’t disclose any other details about the banner’s journey.

The mystery, the banner’s triumphant recovery and return to its rightful home demonstrate the importance of banners, and the power of place.

“It is good to know people still care, but I’m not surprised because they are good people,” says Mettje Swift, lead artist and founder of Banner Art Studio. “Ned Overend is a local hero, and Ed Zink is an icon. Durango is a great community. I’m glad to see this piece of history restored.”

Thanks Ned, for bringing the banner back to its rightful home. Read the original story, 22 -Year-Old Mystery Solved, on the Durango Herald.

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