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A spirited light-up

City celebrates illumination of mural

More than 100 people gathered in Streator's Heritage Park on Saturday night to watch the windows light up on the Vintage Wall Mural.

Jennifer Swartz knows her grandmother was among them in spirit.

Her grandmother, Pam, died Feb. 20. The late Ransom and Streator resident was excited to see the mural go up in the city's downtown, Jennifer said, and was counting down the days to Saturday's illumination.

Jennifer was there Saturday to carry on her grandma's excitement.

"She would've loved this, for sure," said Jennifer, who attended the event with Mike Hill and her two stepchildren. "It was very well planned out."

People of all ages clad in winter coats and hats gathered in the corner park about a half hour before the ceremony, prepared for the 30-degree temperatures. A firepit helped them stay warm. Organizers also passed out lighted balloons and wands, as well as frosted sugar cookies from Blue Eyed Rascal, a bakery slated to open at 121 E. Main St. The Streator Community Center sold popcorn and hot cocoa.

After commemorative remarks from Jodi Ogle, START chairwoman, Chris Coughlin, president of NCI ARTworks, and Mayor Jimmie Lansford, the group started a countdown from five. After they shouted "one" in unison, the mayor's 4-year-old grandson, Logan, pulled a lever that instantly lit up the storefront windows on the mural, sparking a whooping cheer.

While some in attendance left shortly after the lighting, quite a few people lingered for at least a half hour afterward talking with excitement.

Pat Smith was among those sticking around.

"I think it's beautiful," she said. "It's exciting to see so many people out downtown, and cars parked on Main Street."

The lighting of the mural teamed up with the recent opening of a new coffee shop and businesses in the Main Street Market.

"I hope it's the sign of more to come," Smith said, acknowledging the buzz around the downtown improvements.

In the mayor's speech, he told the crowd there's still more work to come at Heritage Park.

"As you'll see, we're not done yet," Lansford said. "There's still work to be done on the wall on the Monroe Tap and the blank wall on the northwest corner. It's still a process in works, and I want to thank everybody for their assistance and contributions to this effort."

Lansford thanked artist Ray Paseka, owner of Westclox Studios in Mendota, and his team for their work.

NCI ARTworks led the fundraising of $20,000 for lighting to be placed behind the mural.

The mural is the first of what the group hopes will be many more public art displays across La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties, calling the project Silo Pathways.

"The aim is to draw more interest in public art in small communities," Coughlin said. "This is just the beginning."

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