WARRENSBURG Driving north into town on Route 9, it’s impossible to miss the massive mural on the wall of the building that houses VFW Post No. 4821 and the Warrensburgh Museum of Local History.
The colorful mural, painted in 1976, offers scenes of life in historical Warrensburg and is a bright greeting for drivers.
Thanks to traveling artist Scott LoBaido, drivers leaving Warrensburg will soon see a mural — a massive painting of the American flag — on the north side of the VFW building.
It’s part of LoBaido’s plan to paint a flag on a VFW or American Legion post in all 50 states.
“I have been an artist since second grade, and about 25 years ago, I realized how awesome that is and how it is the flag that makes it possible,” he said.
“Veterans sacrificed so a crazy artist can travel around the country and do what I do,” LoBaido added. “These people are the best of the best. We really need to appreciate what the veterans have done for us. They make it possible for us to live the way we do and have the freedoms we have.”
LoBaido is covering more than 25,000 miles on the six-month tour, which is his third trip around the nation to paint flags. He is traveling in his red, white and blue pickup truck, Betsy, which is festooned with antlers. The truck will be sold off at the end of the trip.
LoBaido hit his halfway point in June, making a stop in Lake Station, Indiana, and moved east. He hit the New England states last week, then spent the weekend visiting home on Staten Island.
“People asked me why I didn’t paint a building in Staten Island,” said LoBaido, who rode in a Fourth of July parade there Sunday and is known for helping with superstorm Sandy relief efforts. “Honestly, I have painted a couple hundred flags there. I wanted to spread out to other parts of New York.”
LoBaido said he finds many of his sites by Googling them, and when he saw the Warrensburgh museum mural, he got excited.
“I figured that meant the people in town were comfortable with art and with the mural, so I used Google Street View, came in the other direction and saw the wall would be perfect,” he said.
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He has high hopes for the project.
“This is going to be beautiful,” he said. “I am working with the building, and it’s going to be big, bright and bold. It’s going to knock you out of your car.”
This national tour is sponsored by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Home Depot, Behr Paint and CitiQuiet Windows.
After Warrensburg, LoBaido will turn west and wrap up his tour, traveling through the Great Plains states and back to the East Coast.
This is the third time he has crisscrossed the country painting flags. On the previous trips, he didn’t have the sponsorship or pre-planning this trip had.
“I would just go up to people and ask if they wanted an American flag painted on their roof,” he said of his first trip. “I told them it was free, but they could make a donation or give me a sandwich or let me sleep in their yard.”
This time around, he has a planned itinerary and has already painted in 33 states. He is scheduled to hit Arlington, Virginia, in August for No. 49, but still needs to make arrangements to get to Hawaii for the final state.
The good news about having Home Depot as a partner is that when LoBaido started to plan out the mural Monday morning, the wall already had two coats of gray primer on it.
“My canvas was ready to go,” he said, smiling.
Monday, LoBaido was up on a lift, using a long pointer with chalk on the end to sketch out his design.
Painting is scheduled for Tuesday, weather permitting, with an unveiling ceremony set for 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“This is just awesome. When we got the chance, we just jumped on it,” said VFW Commander Dan Steeg, who was watching LoBaido work Monday. “We’ve always liked having the mural on one side, and now, as you are leaving town, you will see the American flag.”
You can read Bill Toscano’s blog at poststar.com/app/blogs or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.