In September, the Keene Elm City Rotary club honored Peter Poanessa and Judy Rogers as Paul Harris Fellows for their work in bringing the Walldogs Magical History Tour to Keene.
Walldogs is an internationally renowned organization of sign and mural artists. Every year they organize a festival where hundreds of artists descend upon a village or small town to paint a series of murals in a three-day festival. The tradition of painting wall advertisements dates back to the early 1800s. Evidence of this can be seen as “Ghost Signs” throughout cities of all sizes. These mural painters of old were often called “Walldogs.”

Poanessa co-owns and operates Keene Signworx, a design and sign-making company based in Keene. He is also a Walldog. Rogers is the owner of Prime Roast Coffee Company, a retail coffee shop and wholesale roasting company. She was also one of the original six organizers of the original Pumpkin Festival in 1991.
 
Over the course of one year, community members recommended historical figures or topics from Keene’s history to be subjects of the murals. Then the community had the chance to vote for the final 16 subjects. During the three-day festival roughly 300 painters completed the murals, assisted by hundreds of local volunteers who provided meals, supplies and support.
 
“Walldogs is what I call an unorganized organization—there’s no address, no phone number, it’s literally a group of artists and sign makers, most of whom work in small shops,” said Poanessa. “We learn where the next festival is, and we just show up. We have around 300 active artists in the Walldogs and, as the show travels, we pick up new artists.”
 
Community members and visitors to Keene can take a guided walking tour of the murals that depict historical events and individuals, including Johnathan Daniels, Dr. Albert Johnston, Clarence DeMar, Catherine Fiske and many more.
 
“We also hired a documentarian to film some of the meet-up and the festival and create a 25-minute video of the whole project and what it brought to the community,” said Rogers. “I cried a little bit when I watched it. We have a book out as well.”
 
Keene Elm City Rotarian Allen Mendelson presented the Paul Harris Fellow certificates to the duo. “I want to thank the two of you who have done so much, by presenting you with Rotary’s highest honor, a Paul Harris fellow,” he said. “You are joining more than 150 people who—over the past 30 years—have been recognized for their service to the community.”
 
You can learn more about the Walldogs in Keene Magical History Tour and view the documentary of the event at www.walldogsinkeene.com.
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