OSAGE COUNTY, Oklahoma - FAA students will add to the scenic drive into Pawhuska to welcome the small town’s many visitors.

The tourism boom is holding strong since the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile, Ree Drummond’s restaurant and general store, opened in 2016.

Since then, Visit The Osage says tourism dollars for lodging alone in Pawhuska have risen 102-percent.

It’s estimated The Mercantile helped bring as many 1-million visitors to town in 2017.

With all the growth, students with Pawhuska’s Future Farmers of America, a youth leadership group, decided to put some extra cash toward a special sign for the community and its many visitors. The Oklahoma Rural Rehabilitation Council and Osage Wind Council also donated money toward the project.

Highway 60 takes you in and out of Pawhuska from the east and west. And for being “out in the country,” as some might say, it has quite a bit of traffic.

 “It’s definitely mind-blowing I wouldn’t expect to see that many cars pass through town,” FFA Vice President Adelaide Lott said.

A big majority of those cars are headed to the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile. Visit The Osage says the restaurant and general store brings an average of a thousand people too town each day.

Lott works as a barista at “The Merc,” as its called by the locals.

“I meet several people every shift. I’ve seen people come from England, just to see Pawhuska, Oklahoma,” said Lott. “They’re like you live in the middle of nowhere... yeah, I guess I do.”

Friday a new sign will greet all the folks making their way into town. It reads, “Welcome to Pawhuska, Oklahoma — Built & donated by Pawhuska FFA.”

“It’s just fun because this was our idea,” said FFA president Shelby Bute.

It kind of like proves that your dreams can come true, your ideas, your goals, your ambitions,” Lott added.

Many students helped build it. They used welders, plasma cutters, powder coating and several other methods to turn the thousand pounds of steel into something special.

“We tried water. We tried numeric acid, copper wiring, leaving it outside for a month maybe and we got this pretty rust look to it,” said freshman Blaine Sweeden.

The prairie will serve as a backdrop for the nearly 10 foot sign.

And the sign will serve as a gateway to town, a place for pictures and an reminder, always for the teenagers who made it happen.

“It just looks amazing,” Sweeden said. “It’s nice, nice to know that hard work pays off.”

The students will install the welcome sign Friday afternoon. Once it’s up, they’ll add stone to the sign lights and landscaping.