Monday, February 1, 2016

The Toppenish Murals

Art in Public Places

I love surprises when I'm on the road.  I never know when I take a random exit for coffee and gas what I may find on the "other side".  When we rolled through the little town of Toppenish, Washington in search of a place to eat, I noticed the murals painted on the side of old brick buildings almost immediately.  "I wonder what the story is," I said, turning to my travel buddy.

"Uh oh," he muttered.  "I have a feeling this isn't going to be an easy on easy off pit stop, is it?"

He knows me too well.

And because the Visitor's Center just happened to be across the street from Dad's, where we had one of those hamburger and fries comfort lunches, the poor guy didn't have a chance.  I wolfed down my meal and high tailed it over there.

The man behind the desk seemed genuinely surprised someone walked through the door.  It had been awhile!  But I've learned from past experiences that these places are a gold mine of information and always always worth the effort to find.  Sure enough, he had maps, brochures and stories.  Oh, boy, did he have stories!  Seventy in all.

The Toppenish Mural Project was started in 1989 to bring the old west back to life.  Every year since then, the art society has added another mural to one of the local buildings.  The murals focus on the history of the area; each one about an event like a treaty, cattle drive, railroad construction or scenes depicting everyday life in the 1800's.  

I've driven through many other mural towns during my travels, but this is the best I've encountered so far.  We were impressed by the vivid colors and the wit and artistry in each of the designs.  The old downtown district, where most of the murals are located, could be a movie set in a western.  Even my travel buddy reluctantly agreed that this place was something special.

Yep, final destinations are grand but those unexpected marvels at the end of random off ramps, can often be even better! 

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