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The 2013 Walldogs Meet 

Whats a Walldog? | Mural Locations | Walldogs info | Kewanee Murals

 

Why Kewanee?

The journey to bring the Walldogs to Kewanee began in January 2011 at a community meeting with 170 residents in attendance.  The goal was to discuss ways to improve Kewanee with new events, downtown improvements, and collaborative marketing.  One of the key concerns was getting more visitors and shoppers into Kewanee businesses and that would take some strategic visioning and thinking.

One community member, Dianne Packee, came up with an idea that seemed farfetched at the time.  Dianne and her husband, Dennie, are the owners of Reiman’s Harley Davidson here in Kewanee.  While Dianne was born in Kewanee, she had been raised in Pontiac Illinois, a couple of hours away.  Dianne pointed out that Pontiac, like Kewanee, was a small community that didn’t really have a pronounced identity until the Walldog Murals went up in 2008.

Murals? 

Dianne went on to explain that there was this group of painters and muralists from around the globe, headquartered in Illinois, who traveled from town to town throughout the Midwest holding mural painting meets.  During these meets, the almost 150 artists would show up for 4 days and paint some of the most beautiful and vibrant murals that represented the towns’ unique histories.  These artists were called the Walldogs and they had descended on Pontiac Illinois in 2008 and left behind 20 murals that transformed that community and its downtown.  Dianne even came to the meeting with contact information for the Walldogs and had already contacted them about getting Kewanee on the waiting list.

What had been a simple suggestion at a community meeting became a fire among Kewanee’s residents.  Discussions with other communities who had held Walldogs meets showed that this was a very viable event and had real benefits for the community:  outside investment in downtown buildings, decreasing vacancy rates, increasing tourism numbers and sales tax, new museums and arts spending, and most importantly, a new sense of pride among residents, even those who scoffed in the beginning.

In 2011, Kewanee was selected as the site for the 2013 Walldogs Meet and it is a special honor.  It is the Walldogs’ 20th Birthday and there is a very special excitement flowing through the Walldogs this year.  The City of Kewanee, the Kewanee Chamber of Commerce, and the Kewanee Economic Development Corporation are united behind the event as are several hundred volunteers and sponsoring businesses. 

The community began organizing for the meet immediately and a call to volunteers was put out.  Dianne and Dennie Packee, owners of Reiman’s Harley Davidson, who came up with the idea were appointed as the Co-Chairs of the Kewanee Walldogs Host Committee.  A team of tenacious and dedicated volunteers split into subcommittees and began planning for the 2013 event.

Kewanee Walldogs Host Committee

 

Walldogs Host Committee Co-Chairs: Dennie and Dianne Packee

Mural Themes/Artists Subcommittee Chair:  Sue Blake and Larry Lock

Events Subcommittee Co-Chairs:  Shane Kazubowski and Sue Sagmoen

Food Subcommittee Co-Chairs:  Diane DeMay, Mark Mikenas, and Bonnie Davis

Marketing & Public Relations Subcommittee Co-Chairs:  Fletcher Ford and Cathy Foes

Lodging Subcommittee Co-Chairs:  Michele Schwarm and Wanda Kieft

Recycling Subcommittee Chair:  Michel Applegate and Annie Eastman

Fundraising Subcommittee Chairs:  Will Sagmoen, Bob Kuntz, Dennie Packee, and Dianne Packee

Logistics Coordinator:  Tim Sheets

 

The volunteers worked closely with the Walldogs’ Project Coordinator, Scott “Cornbread” Lindley on all the details: fundraising and public relations, determining the themes of the murals and providing historical references and artwork for the artists, securing housing for over 200 artists, and feeding all of the artists while they were in town for four full days.  All of this on top of developing a week of events for Kewanee residents and visitors to enjoy in conjunction with the painting.

It came together slowly through perseverance and hard work.  On July 10-14, 2013, Kewanee welcomed over 210 Walldog artists into our community for their 20th anniversary meet called “A Hog in Dog Heaven”.  All the planning and preparation paid off as hundreds of community volunteers, beyond the core planning group, stepped forward to welcome, house, feed, and cheer on our guests.  The response from residents was overwhelming and the Walldog artists felt an instant connection with the residents.  Many of the artists indicated that they had never had so much great food, hospitality, and so many people going out of the way to help them.  The vibe was electric during those four days and what the Walldogs left behind was nothing short of magical:  15 beautiful and vibrant murals depicting important events, people, and companies that made Kewanee such a wonderful place to call home. 

It took 2 and a half years to plan and implement but the 2013 Kewanee Walldogs Meet - "A Hog in Dog Heaven" - was a remarkable success.  The weather was perfect and the streets were overflowing with people enjoying this event.  The Walldogs transformed our downtown with their beautiful murals.  

The Walldogs Loved Kewanee!


The Walldogs really made a huge impact on Kewanee.  Not only because of the fantastic murals they left behind for us but with their personalities.  Quite a few characters in that group!  However, Kewanee made a HUGE impression on the Walldogs.  Here are few comments that I have received over the past few days:

 

All I can say is this "Canadian" loves each and everyone of you!! Thanks for treating me as family!!

Debb Ferris Bates - Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

 

We had a wonderful time and enjoyed talking with the residents.  We also loved our host family and appreciate their opening their home to us.  We hope the murals will continue to draw people to your community.

Brad & Kit Bandow - Williams Bay, WI

 

I'd like to thank you for having myself and my apprentice come to your town. It was the best organized meet I have ever been to.  The food was great -I want the recipe for the rhubarb pie at the Methodist Church, I know it had to have had lard in the crust. All the guys that kept us in ice, water and treats - great. An all around fun time. All the best in the future.

Dick "The Colonel" Bohrer - Two Harbors, MN

 

I enjoyed my time in your city, and the residents made us feel like Rock Stars! Your city was well prepared and supportive, and successfully promoted this once in a lifetime event to make it a memorable celebration.  While this is only my second Walldog meet, I'm certainly looking forward to future events with this creative group of artists.  Next year, it will be in Shipshewana, Indiana- the small town where I was born and raised...can't get much better than that!

Brian Hochstetler - Anderson, IN

You have a wonderfully, warm and inviting town.  We will most certainly plan to stop back by in the near future, bringing friends and family.  We'll also send folks your way to experience your lovely town, see the murals and visit some of your local businesses.  I heard so much positive feedback from all the people moving about the city and by the murals as we painted.  So many people said they had not seen the town so excited in recent years and they were so happy to see people they had not seen in forever.  All the special events which were planned along with the murals, just made it all that much more exciting for everyone.  The meals were superb and the food was abundant.  Hats off to you and your committees.  You all did the most outstanding job ever. 

Leslie Shuster - Palos Heights, IL

One thing I will remember forever is the swing band playing outdoors at dusk with the grain bins in the background.  The experience was a bit of heaven on earth.  I'm so proud to have been a Kewaneean for a few short days and I have been telling everyone what a cool town you have. 

Nancy Bennett - Walldogs Founder - Centerville, IA

It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of your wonderful community for four days. Thank you for your hospitality and all that you did for us! My husband is one of the original Walldogs and said Kewanee's welcoming generosity is at the top of his list! We will definitely be back to visit!

Vicki Avery - Janesville WI

There is always a sense of loss when the Walldogs depart as friends, in excitement for the next year.  We had a ball --Kewanee made us feel special. Thank you to everyone involved and Kewanee rocks!!!

Gayla Schuett - Villa Grove, IL  

This was a common theme from all of the Walldogs:  Kewanee was one of the friendliest and most hospitable communities that they have ever held a meet in.