Painting event will help promote town of Laurel through use of a watermelon bus

By Tony E. Windsor

The familiar sight of school buses that have been redesigned to accommodate loads of fresh watermelons each year is the central theme of an upcoming art event planned for Laurel. Ed Lewandowski of the University of Delaware Sustainable Coastal Community (SCC) Initiative has played an integral role in assisting Laurel government, civic and business leaders in the revitalization effort underway along the Broadcreek, known as the "Ramble."

The Ramble project is a collaboration between the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation, the Town of Laurel, and the University of Delaware's Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative to redevelop the waterfront along the Broad Creek in the area of the downtown. The project is underway as a means to help revitalize downtown Laurel through economic development and enhanced tourism opportunities with a focus on preserving and protecting the waterway and surrounding greenery and wildlife.

Lewandowski said a one-day "Watercolor" event will be held at Janosik Park, in Laurel on July 16, and the "cut-off buses full of watermelons" will be the focus of the event. "The Watercolor event will feature a collaborative art activity to paint a watermelon bus owned and operated by DMC Farms," Lewandowski said in an announcement he posted recently on the "ReimagineLaurel" website.

He said everyone is invited to participate. "Artist John Donato will lead volunteer participants in painting a bus in a style that reflects Laurel's rich heritage and culture as a center for watermelon production, harvest, processing and sales," he said.

Lewandowski said the idea for the bus mural came about during a community meeting held in March that was led by Ben Muldrow, a principal with Arnett Muldrow & Associates. The subject of the meeting was developing Laurel's promotional brand. "The idea to paint a watermelon bus captured the idea generated by the community members and created the initial watermelon bus visual and event title, which were included in a final report for a recommended community brand for Laurel," Lewandowski said.

"This Watercolor event idea and imagery inspired a local group of community stakeholders and partners to organize the mid-July event."

The event's finished product will result in a "rolling mural" that will carry the message of Laurel's heritage throughout the region. "This rolling mural will provide interpretive landscape scenes with historical and present day elements, including agricultural compositions, signs, roadways, flora, wildlife, ponds, and other community-centric subjects reflective of the Laurel area," Lewandowski said. "The artwork will be engaging and relevant to community members and visitors by using a colorful and whimsical style that integrates collections of the key character points and community initiatives into the scenes, activities, and messages of the characters developed."

Lewandowski feels that in addition to telling Laurel's story the bus will also be a source of tourism development. "This one-of a kind mural vehicle will leave a legacy to be shared by the entire community," he said. "The novelty of a painted watermelon bus may also attract tourists to Laurel who are interested in participating in the painting event or simply viewing this unique spectacle."

He said the event also has the potential for significant growth over the years as additional painted buses might be added to the fleet. A larger, painted bus or watermelon festival involving a competition, entertainment, and other complimentary activities could be a future outcome from this inaugural event. Lewandowski said the watercolor event is just one of several ideas and projects aimed at helping revitalize and grow the Laurel community as a means to attract new residents, jobs and visitors.

Rain date for the Watercolor event is Sunday, July 17.

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