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Work Started on New Great Automobile Race Mural for Main Street

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By Rich Place

The mural on Main Street celebrating George Schuster and the Great Automobile Race will soon be covered up by steel siding, but the Concord Historical Society is ensuring the mural’s absence is short-lived.

Volunteers earlier this week began creating a new mural that will feature the same graphic painted on three large pieces of aluminum instead of directly on the side of the building.

Local artist Tom Irish is now in the process of painting the mural after volunteers on Monday traced an outline for him in the same fashion the current mural on Main Street was completed in July 2008.

The difference? Not painting it directly on the side of the building allows the volunteers, including Irish, to work on the mural at a location other than right at the site. This time around, the work began inside the Heritage Building on Franklin Street.

The process is still the same: a projector displayed the image from a computer onto the painting surface. Ironically, the projector sat inside the replica of the Joylan Theater at the museum and projected across the room.

A trio of volunteers on Monday traced the image with markers before Irish took it to his home to paint.

Thankfully, this process doesn’t involve waiting for the sun to go down in order to see the projection.

“We had to start at 9 o’clock Monday night and the race was coming to town on Friday morning,” recalled Joel Maul about creating the original mural in 2008. “We finished about 11 or 11:30 that night, then the next day during the daylight hours started filling in all the lines.”

Jeff Mahl, who is Schuster’s great-grandson and has spearheaded numerous commemorations locally of the 1908 Great Automobile Race, said the mural will be painted on three 8-by-4-foot aluminum skinned panels that will combine for an 8-by-12-foot mural.

It’s similar in dimension to the one currently located on Main Street, although Mahl said the image had to be slightly stretched to fit on the new one.

“For the new image to fit the ratio of this we had to stretch it a little bit,” he said, then added with a laugh, “so when you see the new image, it’ll look faster.”

Joan Thompson, who owns 18 East Main St. along with her husband, Jim, confirmed with the Springville Times that new steel siding will extend the length of the building. It’s estimated that work could take place this weekend, weather permitting.

The building is currently home to Springville Pawn Shop and, just recently, the local campaign headquarters for state Senate candidate Luke Wochensky. The right side of the building was previously home to EG Tax.

The mural pays homage to George Schuster, a Springville resident who participated in the Great Automobile Race from New York City to Paris in 1908. His team won the race behind the wheel of the Buffalo-built Thomas Flyer automobile.

The race would serve as the inspiration for the 1965 movie “The Great Race” starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. Locally, the 100th anniversary was celebrated in 2008 with the unveiling of the mural and a parade.

For the 110th anniversary earlier this summer, Mahl was part of a group who retraced the Great Automobile Race’s American route. In June, events including a wreath-laying ceremony at Schuster’s gravesite in Maplewood Cemetery were held.

A special room in the Heritage Building is dedicated to Schuster and the role the Great Automobile Race had on automotive history.

The new mural will likely be installed next month.

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