Nestled along Highway 30 in southeast Linn County, just 20 miles north of Iowa City and 15 miles east of Cedar Rapids, sits the historic towns of Mount Vernon and Lisbon. The quaint towns offer residents and visitors alike, a vibrant uptown district boasting a variety of shopping and dining experiences, as well as family-friendly events held throughout the year.

This year, Mount Vernon celebrates the 12th anniversary of Iowa’s largest-ever Madonnari Festival, Chalk the Walk. The event will be held on Saturday and Sunday, May 6 and 7, 2017, from 10am to 6pm, on Main Street. Each year residents and visitors come together as a community to make this family-friendly event a success and this year will be no different.

Chalk the Walk is based on an original art form that began in Italy in the 16th century. Called Madonnari, this form of public art was originally done by street artists hoping to collect coins from passersby. Images back then were based on religious themes, and as the Madonna was a popular subject, the artists became known as the “Madonnari.”

This year’s large collaborative piece of chalk art will feature a 30’ x 50’ recreation of Norman Rockwell’s famous Saturday Evening Post cover “Dugout.” It will be the centerpiece of Mount Vernon’s Chalk the Walk two-day festival.

A committee consisting of staff and volunteers from the City of Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon Parks and Recreation, Mount Vernon Area Arts Council and the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group (CDG) chose the piece.

“We are thrilled to announce “Dugout” as our large community piece for 2017,” said Danielle Chargo, chair of the Chalk the Walk committee. “We have wanted to do a Norman Rockwell piece for several years, and the timing with last year’s historic Cubs World Series win seemed like the perfect opportunity. I can’t think of a better way to start out the summer of 2017! Please join us and help us create a 30’ by 50 chalk version of “Dugout.”

For a $10 donation to the festival, any interested festival participant will be given a set of chalk sticks and will be asked to create a single 2’ by 2’ square of a portion of the image. When finished, a recreation of the Rockwell piece will appear on Mount Vernon’s Main Street as a giant image, colored with pastel chalk by dozens of artists of all ages and abilities.

The event will also feature the work of more than 300 artists utilizing a downtown city street as a canvas and more than a half-ton of chalk. There is no fee to take part as an artist and the chalk is provided. Artists will be given an 8’ x 10’ section of pavement to showoff their talent.

Again this year, thanks to generous support from the City of Mount Vernon and the Mount Vernon Area Arts Council, many prizes will be awarded. One artist will receive a 1st place prize and will also be asked to return for the 2018 Chalk the Walk festival, where they will be given the opportunity to appear as the Featured Artist. There will also be other cash prizes awarded including the Artist’s and People’s Choice Awards. Cash prizes will be awarded to chalk artists during a formal check presentation ceremony on Sunday afternoon, May 7.

While you’re out enjoying Chalk the Walk, make sure to stop into the many unique shops lining First Street, and enjoy a meal at one of the top-notch restaurants. Mount Vernon, “Close to you, far from ordinary.”

Artist applications are due April 15, 2017 and can be found at Volunteers are still needed for Chalk the Walk. If you would like to volunteer, visit for more information.

©Copyright City Revealed 2017