'It displays what our town is': Story City mural highlights beloved landmarks, Scandinavian roots

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Rod Bohner, Kelly Zerr and Pete Tekippe teamed up to paint a large mural in downtown Story City. The mural celebrates the community's landmarks, such as the Swinging Bridge and the Antique Carousel, as well as the town's Scandinavian roots.

Downtown Story City has added a large, colorful mural to the side of one of its brick buildings.

It’s a celebration of the community’s landmarks, such as the historic Swinging Bridge and the Antique Carousel. It’s also a nod to the town’s Scandinavian roots.

“Having this mural in our Main Street District is such a welcoming and great attribute to our historic area,” said Shanon McKinley, executive director of the Story City Greater Chamber Connection. “The response to the mural has been overwhelming as the mural itself incorporates so much of Story City's qualities and charm.”

The mural prominently features a carousel horse — the white one, which is the most popular of all the animals at the attraction that was built in 1913. In the painting, the horse is located at the entrance to the Swinging Bridge, which was built across the Skunk River in 1936 as a Works Project Administration job during the Great Depression.

The project also incorporates rosemaling and a woven heart, along with a group of dancing children in traditional clothing. A traditional part of Story City’s Scandinavian Days celebration is a Nordic dance program featuring local elementary children.

More:'It was quite an honor': Ames firm wins award for Swinging Bridge project in Story City

Pete Tekippe, Rod Bohner and Kelly Zerr first created a 2-by-2 foot grid on the exterior brick wall to set a base for the mural.

A boy is shown fishing in the Skunk River. For visitors who look closely, a goose and her goslings can be seen on the river.

“The mural is one of the first things you see when you come into Story City from the west,” Mayor Mike Jensen said. “It’s such a great addition to our downtown and it shows the history of our community.”

Created by Rod Bohner, Pete Tekippe and Kelly Zerr, the mural covers the west exterior wall of 515 Broad St., a building owned by Chris and Kate Feil.

Work on the project began in early June and was completed in mid-July.

“My office is across the street, so for a couple of years I’d been looking at this blank wall,” said Tekippe, who owns Pete Tekippe Photography. “I thought, ‘Something’s got to be done here.’”

He approached Bohner, a local artist and retired Roland-Story art teacher, and suggested they team up on a mural.

Scaffolding and a lift were needed for the mural work.

Tekippe was originally thinking about something small, maybe 10-by-12 feet.

“Rod said, ‘Let’s do the whole building,’” Tekippe recalled.

That resulted in a mural approximately 32 feet high and 90 feet wide.

They came up with a drawing and created a grid on the brick wall that equaled one square foot for every half-inch of the drawing.

Tekippe and Bohner asked Zerr for some help with the lines, saying: “A few hours. It will be easier with three people.”

“Kelly didn’t know he was giving up a month,” Tekippe said, making everyone laugh. “So he was here every day for a month, drawing lines and helping us fill in the background areas.”

The project required scaffolding and a lift for the upper areas of the wall. Diamond Vogel provided a $260 Paint Iowa Beautiful grant, and Story City Building Supply donated all of the painting supplies.

The project took about 20 gallons of paint.

More:Story City's Freedom Flight and Heritage Memorial Boulder gets a roof

The mural design on paper was marked with a grid to correspond to a 2-by-2 foot grid that was placed on the wall.

“The city allocated $5,000 for the project, which paid for the lift rental and the rest of the paint,” Tekippe said. “We contributed our time. We’ve all been very active in the community, and I think all three of us just wanted to give back.”

Bohner said he got involved because it looked like an interesting project. He is also the creator of the mural on the Freedom Flight and Heritage Memorial Boulder on the east side of Story City near McDonald’s.

The mural has already received attention from locals and from travelers through town, who slow down or even stop to look at the artwork. It’s been a popular place for selfies.

“The team that worked on getting this mural really focused on making sure that we could showcase all the things Story City,” McKinley said. “And anyone who has stopped by to see has said they just love it and it displays what our town is amazingly.”