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By STEPHEN SWISHER
Rantoul Press correspondent
The third meeting of the Rantoul Business Group took place Wednesday at Around the Corner Thrift Resale and Antiques store to further discuss the possibility of the Walldogs coming to town and other ideas that could jump-start the economy.
“We got to do something to bring Rantoul back to life.” said Paula Hopkins, owner of A House of Flowers in downtown Rantoul and leader of the meeting.
Hopkins initially brought up the idea of the murals painted by the artist group Walldogs in the first meeting.
Hopkins said she received a big response from people after they read about the Walldogs in the Rantoul Press.
“Over 20 people called me about the Walldogs. The murals can make Rantoul a destination, and that’s the goal to find something to bring people into town,” she said.
Hopkins, like many business owners in Rantoul, has felt the pressures of a declining economy.
“Every day is rough. If it wasn’t for my Champaign deliveries I would be out of business,” Hopkins said.
Pete Salmon of Taylor Studios, who is working on the Rantoul community experience plan, a similar project that is trying to make “A blueprint for enhancing Rantoul’s brand,” was in attendance and explained some details of what it would take and cost for such a project.
Salmon said if Rantoul would go with the Walldogs it would cost from $10,000-$12,000 per mural. But if Taylor Studios or a similar firm would do the murals, it would cost $15,000-22,000 each plus an additional $2,000 for a project manager and another $2,000 for art comps per mural (which are miniature versions of the murals to see what the finished project would look like.)
“The price seems like a good deal if you are willing to lose some control over content, for example if the mural is going to be abstract or realistic,” Salmon said “The art comp would give town control over every detail.”
Salmon’s main objective was to try to integrate the primary ideas of Rantoul’s story that came out of surveys given to the people of Rantoul by Taylor Studios and the subject of the Walldog murals.
“We are not actively seeking this task; we are just providing whatever support we can,” Salmon said.
Nancy Kobel, president of the Chanute Air Museum board, likes the idea of an aviation-themed mural on one or more walls of the museum.
“We read the article about the Walldogs and liked the idea. We have several walls we are interested in painting,” Kobel said adding, “We want to be more active in Rantoul. We want to be a bigger presence in the community and help bring more business into town.”
Hopkins knows that raising the money for any project is going to be difficult, but she will draw from her experience of raising more than $8,000 in less than six weeks for a cancer benefit in honor of a friend.
“We are talking about thousands of dollars here. Rantoul does not have thousands of dollars,” Hopkins said, “but if you don’t ask, how do you do know what will happen? I’m willing to do anything I can.”
Farmers market discussed. Also discussed was a farmers market that could happen once a week or at least once a month starting in April in downtown Rantoul.
Bruce Sandahl, village administrator, said he is working with some people in Champaign County, looking at available property in Rantoul to possibly use for vegetable production. A possible farmers market in Rantoul is part of that discussion.
Loise Haines of Around The Corner store said people buying from a farmers market could use their Link card.
Hopkins said April might not be a reasonable start time for the market.
“Once a month seems more possible, but I’d like to have it once a week,” Hopkins said.
Music in the park idea broached. Another idea brought up was having music in the park one night a week in the summer.
It was mentioned that there are some federal funding programs that help with the cost if the theme is cultural diversity through music. It was also brought up that most towns that have music in the park are sponsored by the local businesses.
The Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce are throwing a semi-formal dance at The Linden in Rantoul April 6. Benefits go to the Crisis Nursery in honor of April being Child Abuse Awareness Month.
There will be a cancer walk in Rantoul Sept. 14. Last year the event raised $9,000.
“If we can get a town meeting and everyone brings a positive idea and 400 people show up, we can make things happen,” Hopkins said.
The next Rantoul Business Group meeting will be the first day of spring, March 20, at Around the Corner.