Walldogs are coming

This week, it’s time to paint the town — literally.

Wednesday marks the start of the Walldogs mural festival, a traveling event that brings a collective of artists to a new community each year. And this year, Keene is that chosen community.

Over the festival’s four days, roughly 200 muralists and sign painters from across the country — and a few from farther corners of the world — will descend on the Elm City to create 16 vintage-themed murals chronicling important pieces of Keene’s past, according to the festival’s website.

Once completed, the displays will comprise the Magical History Tour, a historical walking tour of the downtown area. The murals’ themes, which were narrowed down to 25 finalists and then selected by the community, center on topics and figures ranging from local civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels to land conservation and baseball in Keene.

According to Judy Rogers, community coordinator for the Magical History Tour, a team of about 50 volunteers has been working together to organize the event over the past 20 months. Another hundred or so will be on-hand this week to help run it, she said.

“We’re throwing a multi-day festival, and there is a lot of fun coming our way; goosebumps around every corner,” said Rogers, who owns Prime Roast Coffee Co. on Main Street. “But I think the highlight of it all will be the experience of community coming together to create something meaningful and everlasting — a statement piece reflecting our love of this beautiful city.”

The festivities kick off Wednesday night, when artists will trace their mural designs by projected light, she said. Over the following days, attendees will be able to observe the painters at work alongside a packed itinerary of fun.

In addition to self-guided mural touring and an artisan market starting Thursday, festival-goers will have the opportunity to see demonstrations from artists and try their hand at painting a community mural. Live music is also on tap for Friday and Saturday, featuring artists from across New Hampshire and New England, such as Brattleboro country rock outfit The Rear Defrosters and Keene-based hip-hop/rock fusion group Adam and the Flood.

Saturday will be the festival’s biggest day, including an all-day block party on Court Street, a cornhole tournament and kid-friendly activities, such as face-painting and paper-making in Railroad Square. A guided walking tour of the murals-in-progress led by Alan Rumrill, executive director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, is scheduled for Saturday morning.

Local breweries will offer beer tastings throughout the afternoon, and festival fare will be available from food trucks Street & Savory and Salt & Lime.

That night will feature the only ticketed event of the week, with an art auction to be held in Delegation Hall at the former Cheshire County Court House on Court Street. Attendees will have the opportunity to bid on original works by Walldogs muralists, such as a gold leaf rendering of the iconic Parrish Shoes sign on Central Square, according to the event page.

The evening will also include a cash bar and a free chocolate buffet catered by Ye Goodie Shoppe. Tickets for the soiree, which starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, are $17 and can be purchased at the door or in advance on TicketELF.com.

Main Street will remain open throughout the festival, Rogers said, though travelers can expect to encounter closures on Church Street and the westbound side of Eagle Court to allow for mural painting. On Saturday, a section of Court Street from Vernon Street to Central Square will be cordoned off for the block party, she said.

She noted that, though the entire process has been exciting, she’s most excited to meet the Walldogs artists and see how they transform the city.

“There has never been anything like this in our town. The Walldogs: Magical History Tour is a huge public art project. The murals will be a historical treasure with innumerable educational applications, and a year-round attraction,” she said.

“We hope this will be a jumping off point for more exciting community art projects in the future.”

Additional information about the festival, including a full schedule of events, is available at www.walldogsinkeene.com.

Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or mmcintyre@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MMcIntyreKS.