Route 66 in the News
Murals Draw Attention in Route 66 Town
PONTIAC, Ill. - Pontiac Tourism Director Ellie Alexander told the city council Monday that the community’s 19 murals helped to increase tourism 99 percent during the month of June compared with last summer.
Alexander said that the increase from 904 tourists to 1,798 tourists reflects the larger crowds during the Walldogs weekend. The increase during the month of July from visitors was 74 percent (1,044 in July 2008 to 1,815 people in July 2009).
“We already had everything in place as far as giving the tourist a good experience,” Alexander told The Daily Leader, noting that tourists could also visit Pontiac’s Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.
The city already held 12 group trolley tours of the murals since Summer Bash. The city also expects to have a tram available for tours in a few weeks.
Alexander emphasized that the trolley tours are group tours only, and individuals or couples could take the walking tour. A brochure/map of the murals designed by Diaz Sign Art of Pontiac is expected to be available soon.
The city recently clear-coated the water-based murals to protect them from the weather, and the oil-based murals will be coated next year.
“We’re very fortunate that we had the Diaz family, because without them the festival wouldn’t have happened,” Alexander said, adding that Diaz Sign Art came up with the idea of the festival two years ago.
The city formed a commission for mural topics and locations, and the Diaz family chose some of the best mural project leaders in the country to design them. The city now has beautiful pieces of art that will bring a financial return from tourism to Pontiac for years to come, Alexander said.
The city paid $50,000 to hold the Walldogs festival, and the tax revenue figures from the hotel/motel and sales taxes during that time are expected to be available in October.
Alexander said that the city could commission a mural at any time. Diaz Sign Art created the two commissioned. The first was the Route 66 Shield done in September 2007 on the back of the Route 66 Museum.
The second commissioned mural is the Welcome to Downtown Pontiac mural on the opposite side of the Vermilion River and Old Mill mural next to the Mill Street Bridge. It is the newest, “unlisted,” mural completed just two weeks ago.
“They’re all so different and they’re all so personal,” Jane Diaz said of creating and costs associated with murals. She believes that when the city saw the impact the Route 66 Shield had on drawing people into the city to look at it, that was the “turning point.”
“After that, it kind of snowballed … and it kept on growing,” Diaz said.
“A lot of local artists jumped in and it was nice to have something for the local artists to get involved.” Many participated in the Mystery Mural, now known as Roszell’s Soda Fountain on a back door across from the Route 66 mural.
~Ilene Haluska, Pontiac Daily Leader