ARCOLA — Walldog FranCisco Vargas, a professional sign painter from Fresno, Calif., has learned to expect the unexpected at Walldog meets.
That's why he arrived a day early for the Walldogs Pop The Top meet in Arcola.
"A lot of times, being a project leader, you run into obstacles" Vargas said. "The weather can affect your project. One time I thought I was painting a mural on a corner. It was in a driveway. I had to go to the neighbor's to project from the window."
So Vargas jump-started his mural about Hispanic immigration to Arcola by projecting his image on Tuesday evening on a wall of Carmen's Bar & Grill, right across from meet central, a huge tent on Oak Street. Fourteen other project leaders were to use overhead projectors on Wednesday evening to illuminate other walls in downtown Arcola with the outlines of their murals. Altogether, 140 Walldogs from throughout the United States as well as Australia, New Zealand and Scotland will be here through Sunday, painting murals that Arcola residents hope will beautify their city and draw more tourists.
"Like every small town, you're struggling to survive. It's just the economy," Arcola resident Billie Jean Clark said as she watched Annette Ferguson of Arcola and Cynthia Halverson of Mansfield paint Vargas' mural. "We need people to come buy gas and eat at our restaurants."
The Arcola beautification committee brought the Walldogs here, after seeing how they transformed Danville two years ago, as well as other Illinois cities such as Pontiac and Lincoln. Roger Adams, who drives a fork lift at a steel factory in Pontiac, was so taken with the Walldogs meet there that he's helped with subsequent ones.
"It was just fun once you do it," he said Wednesday evening in Arcola. "You enjoy meeting the people from all over the country and there are people from New Zealand and Australia here."
Vargas, 61, said he lives for Walldog meets.
"It's like a big family reunion," he said. "Everybody paints together. It's big camraderie."
The Pop the Top meet continues through Sunday in Arcola and will offer activities for children and adults as well as the opportunity to see all of the murals being painted.