KALIDA — Well-known artist Oscar Velasquez recently completed a mural on an outdoor wall along U.S. 224 in Kalida showing memorable events during the 141st history of Kalida Pioneer Days. This year’s Pioneer Committee decided to hire Velasquez to paint the mural on the wall of The Pizzeria as part of this year’s celebration.
“I’ve had my eye on this outside wall for nearly eight years,” Velasquez said. “Then last year I was contacted to do the Kalida IGA wall. I mentioned this wall. This year the Pioneer Committee contacted me about doing this mural.”
Many events from the festival and historical past of Kalida are featured on the second mural Velasquez has painted in Kalida. It is the 10th outdoor mural he has painted in Putnam County. He has painted close to 50 murals throughout the United States.
On the west end of the mural, a scene shows residents watching as Capt. Earl “Human Torch” McDonald lights himself on fire and jumps 80 feet into a flaming pool of water. The performer came to Pioneer Days in 1963 directly from the New York State Fair.
According to legend, Capt. McDonald met his demise shortly after performing in Kalida, when a tragic accident during one of his performances took his life.
The annual Pioneer Days parade is also depicted on the mural including the world-renowned Budweiser Clydesdales, which have appeared in Kalida four times during their Pioneer Festival celebration and parade.
Depicted in the sky on the mural are parachuters, a balloon ascension, and F-16 jets, all of which have appeared at previous Pioneer Days festivals. Historical information indicates that the balloon ascension that took place in 1962 was something quite different than what we might see today.
Other historical scenes painted on the mural include one of the first bridges over the Ottawa River in Kalida, a scene originally painted by renowned Kalida artist Emerson Burkhart, and also the first Putnam County Courthouse, which was located in Kalida.
Pioneer Days, jointly sponsored by the Kalida Lions and the Kalida Firefighters, is always held the weekend after Labor Day and the dates for this year are Sept. 5, 6, 7 and 8.