Artists create vibrant scenes on Morrison’s downtown streets

Paint the Town draws thousands for day of painting, entertainment.

CeCe Wendt, of Fulton, paints purple flowers in her square at Paint the Town in Morrison on Saturday.

MORRISON - Hundreds of artists left on their mark in downtown Morrison on Saturday, coming out in droves for the annual Paint the Town festival.

Rain had threatened the annual event that morning but held off until late in the afternoon. In between, sunny skies created a perfect backdrop for families and friends to paint inside the boundaries of circles and squares mapped out in paint on Main and Market streets.

“This is my first year coming to this, so it’s very exciting. I didn’t realize how many people they pull in to do this,” said Cindy Tobey, of Savanna. “I’m here for my son and daughter. I’m sure you can figure out what he’s drawing, Bob Ross.”

In fact, honoring Bob Ross’ legacy was the plan for the day. Each year since the first Paint the Town in 1994, festival organizers have selected a theme. This year it was based on the art of Bob Ross, the well-known artist who died in 1995 and whose instructional show, “The Joy of Painting”, and soothing voice can still be found on TV today.

The Children’s Art Preservation Association created the family art event as a way for the community to participate in the arts together, as families and individuals, according to Paint the Town’s website. The number of 5-foot squares prepared for painters on the morning of the event has grown steadily since its debut, when 250 squares were painted, to more than 2,000 in 2023. More than 6,000 attend the event annually to enjoy painting, entertainment and food.

Trina Renkes, of Morrison, has attended Paint the Town for many years.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” she said. “My son is 16, and we’ve been doing this every year. He doesn’t want to do it anymore, so now my 12 year old starts,” Renkes said. ”I like the community involvement and just the atmosphere and the day. I love all the people it brings.”

Lindsay Barnhart, of Fulton, and her family drove to Morrison on Saturday and then decided to get involved in their first Paint the Town.

“We just drove up here and wanted to try it out,” she said. “It’s our first year. We didn’t know anything about it. We were just driving through and saw everything and he (her son) asked if we could stop.”

She said her family planned to stick around after they were done painting Mario and Luigi and a nature scene.

“We’re going to see the festival. We’re going to eat lunch here. It’s great that we get to listen to music while the kids are painting. It’s a nice family friendly event,” she said.

“It’s great to see this many young kids interested in art,” Barnhart said. “It seems like our creative interests and stuff, we just don’t make enough time for it. So I’m really happy that they’re supporting the art side. Express who you want to be. I love it.”

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media