Walldogging Galore at the MuralFest In The Dalles, Oregon

The Walldogs painted 17 murals celebrating the city, history and people of The Dalles, Oregon.

Two people painting a car on a wall.
Work in progress on the 55m (180’) wide centrepiece of the NorthWest MuralFest in The Dalles, designed by Noel B. Weber.

Back in the heat of August, the Walldogs gathered to paint a series of murals in The Dalles, Oregon. The event took place after a Covid-enforced delay, and brought together an international cast of artists and designers, supported by a team of volunteer painters. The Northwest MuralFest was bathed in sunshine as wall after wall was decorated with murals celebrating the city, its history, and people.

About the Walldogs

The basic premise of the Walldogs is to improve the appearance of towns and cities by painting large, colourful murals. These celebrate important pieces of local heritage, and significant historical figures. Fundraising covers the direct costs of designing and producing the murals, with volunteers helping to paint them over the days of the event.

The event in The Dalles, Oregon, lasted five days from 24–28 August 2022. 15 murals were painted, bringing the total to 17 after two had been produced as tests ahead of time. Many of the mural themes were selected based on a public vote, and range from local communities and groups, to individuals including village chiefs, entrepreneurs, rodeo stars, and dancers.

The Dalles MuralFest Murals

The following is a selection of the final murals, including the biggest ever designed and produced by Noel B. Weber. And he's designed a few in his time! The photos have been kindly shared by Lee Littlewood, Philip Mascher, and contributors to the dedicated Facebook event page. If you are visiting The Dalles, then this map will help you locate them all.

H.L. Davis

Designed by Aaron Taylor.

Harold L. Davis’s was a writer and the first Oregon-born person to win a Pulitzer Prize. This was for his novel Honey in the Horn which was about southern Oregon pioneer life. The book also scooped the Harper Prize.

Ben Snipes

Designed by “The Wing Nuts” Sonny Franks, Eric Skinner and Russell Kelly

Mural showing a cowboy herding cattle.
Multiple pictorial and lettering elements on this tribute to renowned cowboy Ben Snipes.

Local entrepreneur Ben Snipes earned his fortune herding cattle and supplying beef to gold miners. He is in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and this other business interests included The Dalles bank and the Snipes & Kinnersly drugstore.

La Familia Mexicana

Designed by Patrick Smith / @patrick.g.smith.79

The Latino community has been a strong cultural influence in The Dalles since the early 1880s. This mural features key elements of this culture, including family, music, and religion. It also references the Bracero Program which brought Mexican men to the area to work in agriculture, including seasonal cherry picking.

World Famous Cherries

Designed by Noel B. Weber / @noelbweber

'World Famous Cherries' and a picture of people working in a cherry orchard.
Noel B. Weber's cherry mural.

This mural celebrating the area's cherry farming heritage was one of two produced in advance of the main event. Next to it is a promotional panel advertising the original dates in September 2021 before these were pushed back due to the pandemic.

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The Chinese Community

Designed by Joe Diaz / @diazsignart

Another important community in The Dalles are the Chinese that flourished during the mid-1800s to the early-1900s. They made a vital economic contribution to the city and ran a variety of businesses including laundries, restaurants, lodging houses, gardens, and stores selling items imported from China.

Historic Columbia River Highway

Designed by Noel B. Weber / @noelbweber

Wall with painting materials in front.
Work in progress on Noel B. Weber's enormous multi-panel mural for the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Constructed between 1913–22, the Historic Columbia River Highway provided a means of traveling from east to west through the Columbia River Gorge. It was designed by Samuel Lancaster to take full advantage of its location with myriad scenic viewpoints and panoramas along the way; features such as bridges and tunnels were built as artistic compliments to this landscape.

Video showing the expanse of wall covered by Noel B. Weber's Historic Columbia River Highway mural.

Noel B. Weber's mural consists of nine panels measuring 55 x 4.5 m (180’ x 15’) in total. These show the various modes of transport used on the highway and the vistas that can be enjoyed along its length.

Two men standing in front of a painted car on a wall.
The driver of the car is modelled on event organiser Peter McKearnan, here on the right next to Jay Allen.
Getting Sketchy with Noel B. Weber
Noel B. Weber’s sign painting and Letterheads story, and book.
See more of Noel B. Weber's work inside his Sign Painter's Sketch Book.

Eleanor Borg

Designed by Jennifer Thomas / @hotrodjen

Painted mural on a brick wall.
The life and times of Eleanor Borg, dancer, horse-rider, and teacher.

Eleanor Borg took up dance to help overcome Polio and started teaching aged 12. She had an illustrious showbusiness career in New York and served as an aviation cadet in the second world war. She taught dance and horse-riding to generations of children and graduated from college herself at the age of 90.

Blanche McGaughey

Designed by Brad Johnson / @bradjohnsonsigns

Lettering and pictorial or a woman and women riding a horse.
Large-scale mural celebrating the achievements of champion rodeo star Blanche McGaughey.

This was one of the two test murals produced ahead of the main event, a tribute to local bronc rider and steer wrestler Blanche McGaughey.

The Dalles Dip

Designed by Sean Beachamp

In the era before air-conditioning, The Dalles Dip provided a place for locals to cool off in the hot, dry summers. It was located on the Columbia River and consisted of a movable platform with a tall slide, and a tower with a diving board.

Sketch with lettering and pictorial elements.
Pencil drawing for the Dalles Dip mural.

Chief Tommy Kuni Thompson

Designed by Jasper Andries / @paintedbyjasper

Chief Tommy Thompson and Chief Henry Thompson were chiefs of the nearby Celilo (Wyam) village. Tommy was a strong advocate for his Indigenous people's rights, including the harvesting of salmon. Current Celilo residents, including descendants of the Thompsons, visited the event and gave gifts to thank the artists.

Benjamin A. Gifford

Designed by Anat Ronen / @anatronen1971

Large mural painted on a wall.
The mural features Benjamin A. Gifford with one of his cameras, and some of his photography of Indigenous peoples. 

Originally from the Midwest, photographer Benjamin A. Gifford lived and worked in The Dalles for about 15 years from the mid-1890s. He published two books of local photography and was known for his images of Native Americans and scenic views of the Columbia River and Columbia River Highway.

Person on a platform painting a mural high up on a wall.
Work in progress on the Benjamin A. Gifford mural.

Honald Sign Co.

Designed by Pete Poanessa

Bernard Honald was born in Germany in 1906 and learned the sign trade at Foster & Klaiser in Portland. After moving to The Dalles, he split his time between work for them and his own jobs painting gas stations and movie posters. He formed the Honald Sign Co. in 1958 after buying Foster & Klaiser’s Oregon & Eastern Washington division, and was joined there by his son Gary. The business was sold after Bernard retired, but Gary kept trading with Honald Crane Service.

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The Sorosis Club

Designed by Christine Brunk-Deshazo / @brushcris_us

The Sorosis (meaning ‘sister') Club was a national women’s organisation and, among other achievements, played an important role in securing women’s suffrage. The Dalles chapter was formed in 1902 and their work included: preserving Fort Dalles as a museum and historic site; protecting the land that became Sorosis Park; securing grants for the Carnegie Library; improving the city’s sanitation; supporting the Red Cross; and setting up a women’s scholarship fund.

It's a Wrap!

The sun stayed out for the group photo which shows just how many people were involved in producing the work at the Northwest MuralFest in The Dalles, Oregon.

Group of people in front of a large painted mural.
The Dalles Walldogs photographed in front of Noel B. Weber's giant mural.
Thank you to the following for their assistance in bringing this article together: Lee Littlewood; Philip Mascher; Peter McKearnan. If you are interested in joining a Walldogs event then there is one planned in March in High Springs, Florida.

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