More than 70 people, including leaders and members of the Susquehanna Hose Company, Havre de Grace city officials and many citizens gathered behind the fire company's No. 1 Fire House Friday afternoon to formally dedicate a breathtaking public mural.
Designed and painted by former city resident Shawn Forton, the mural depicts a number of Havre de Grace historic scenes, such as Concord Point Lighthouse and the old Havre de Grace Race Track and also pays homage to the State of Maryland.
The mural is painted on one of the old foundations of the city's Pennsylvania Railroad station that closed decades ago.
Forton worked on the project with the support of the fire company and other local organizations and business, as well as the city and state.
Susquehanna Hose Fire Chief Scott Hurst recognized many of the officials in attendance, including Harford County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, Havre de Grace City Council members Bill Martin, Joe Smith, Barbara Wagner and David Glenn and Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane.
Hurst thanked Forton, who now lives in Perryville, for his work to "beautify Havre de Grace even more than it is."
Several family members of Forton's also came for the event. His daughter Kaidence, who is almost 2, ran up to her "Daddy" during the dedication, unaware that all of the hoopla was for him.
Beside the mural was a sign that read, "Havre de Grace mural created by artist Shawn Forton with special thanks in our community," and included names of those who helped put together the mural and surrounding landscaping.
Mayor Wayne Dougherty thanked the volunteers for their efforts, "and that includes everyone standing here today."
Dougherty recognized Vulcan Materials who he said made "a big contribution" in donating materials and work to create the landscaping in front of the mural and presented the company with a proclamation.
Hurst, who has known Forton for many years, gave his friend a plaque on behalf of the fire company and a Challenge Coin, which is typically given to company members for life-saving efforts and good deeds.
The mayor also presented Forton with a proclamation on behalf of the city.
"Once you live in Havre de Grace," he told Forton, "it's your city."
The proclamation noted that Forton spent more than 75 hours and 40 gallons of paint working "in extreme heat" to create something beautiful for the city.
Forton was too humble to give a speech, despite the crowd chanting for one. He jokingly said, "I didn't prepare a speech."
Lisanti commented that even though the artist didn't use his word, "I think you spoke on the wall."
She added that once Havre de Grace has a new high school built that hopefully Forton can paint another mural for that building.
As a token of thanks, Forton presented the mayor, Lisanti and other dignitaries with a print of the mural.
After the event, Forton said he was "speechless."
"I wasn't expecting this many people to be here," he said.
Forton added that he's gotten many comments on his piece of art, including "great job" and "amazing."