Legend of Sykesville's Snallygaster reborn with Main St. mural project

The Downtown Sykesville Connection has created a mural scavenger hunt to tell the legend of a creature that comes out when it floods.

As if coordinated in conjunction with this summer’s influx of rain, the Downtown Sykesville Connection has created a mural scavenger hunt to tell the legend of a creature that comes out when it floods.

Similar to the larger barn quilt project across Carroll County, these murals were planned to give residents a reason to get outside, get moving and appreciate art — and all 10 of the works will be completed by the end of this week.


And with an accompanying book written by Gate House Museum Curator Jack White, viewers will also be able to learn about the mythical Snallygaster: a dragon-like creature in American folklore that allegedly inhabits the Central Maryland and Washington, D.C., area.

“The Snallygaster is a creature that apparently was seen a few times, but only when there is a flood,” said Julie Della-Maria, executive director of the Downtown Sykesville Connection Tuesday morning.


Each artist was given a part of White’s story to illustrate, she said, but none know the new version in its entirety yet.

The tale of the Snallygaster is a flexible one, like many legends, and White’s version is one crafted with his intimate knowledge of Sykesville history.

Della-Maria pointed at Frederick-based artist Goodloe Byron’s painting outside the Old Main Line Visitor Center & Post Office, which depicts the creature in a Hawaiian button-up shirt holding a pail labeled, “Not Gas,” in one hand and a dead chicken in the other. A blazing fire rages behind him.

Heading toward Main Street from Oklahoma Avenue, Della-Maria pointed out another mural hanging outside Firehouse Creamery, painted by Vickie Thurston, an artist who teaches local painting classes and lives nearby.

“It was fun once I got my teeth around it,” Thurston said of her mural, which depicts two young girls wading across a river toward a small dragon. Behind them is a fallen tree with a safe next to it that has broken open.

“I interpreted it pretty literally. I’m just kind of that way with my painting,” she said. “In my part of the story, lightning struck and a tree fell down, and a safe fell down. Then two girls by the river find the baby Snallygaster was born.”

Dana Alonzi, chair of the Downtown Sykesville Connection’s Design Committee, said the ice cream shop took advantage of the new installation by creating an ice cream flavor in honor of the mythical creature.

“They said they created a Snallygaster flavor and to come down and get some,” Alonzi said. “It was very good; it had peanut butter, chocolate, pretzels.”

Farther up Main Street, in the gazebo next to E.W. Beck’s, Vivian Davis’ mural was painted as if it was coming up through the ground. It depicted a fluffy white chicken and Sykesville’s railroad tracks breaking out of a safe, with a river and setting sun in the background. Next to the safe lay a bottle.

Davis, a local artist who lives near Piney Run Park, said in her section of the story a chicken farmer was told there’d be some kind of disaster in the town if he opened the safe, so she decided to put Sykesville inside.

Sykesville is currently celebrating their Farmers Market with great local produces and activities for all so that everyone in the community can enjoy living a healthy life.

Two of the artists were out painting directly on buildings in the parking lot directly behind Main Street on Oklahoma Avenue on Tuesday.

Melissa Hodge, an artist from Eldersburg, was painting a man on a horse carrying a bag. Above him a sinister dragon was watching him through the clouds.


She said she didn’t know what was in the bag she was painting, or if the ominous onlooker was the Snallygaster — she was just painting her interpretation of the story page she was given.

“I’m interested to read the story, too,” said Hodge, “to see what exactly happens with the Snallygaster.

“And hopefully when I read it, it won’t be during a torrential downpour,” she said, laughing.

Westminster-based muralist Dominic Jones sketched out his landscape scene on an alley wall two buildings away. His painting includes buildings, a man floating down a river in a pot, chickens, eggs and a dog.

“I’m going to make it to where it looks like it’s blending in with the wall,” Jones said. “I didn’t know too much about [the Snallygaster] at first. But it gets more and more unique as the story goes.”

Jones has also painted a mural at TownMall of Westminster — the big monkey. He said people had been talking about the mall struggling, but that the art really drew renewed attention.

“I didn’t realize how many people would stop and watch me,” he said.

With a crowd gathering on Tuesday, the same could be said for the Snallygaster project.

The Town of Sykesville has decided to name the pedestrian tunnel under Md. 32 after the former mayor who got the economic development project at Warfield off the ground: Jonathan Herman.

“Having it outside enables everybody to enjoy all of it,” said Stacy Link, a member of the Town Council and the Downtown Sykesville Connection Design Committee. “The intent is, in a very fun way, to educate people about the history of Sykesville, to get them interested. There’s going to be a map to go along with it, too.

“Even if you never read the book, you can create the story on your own,” she said. “Or maybe you read the book and then see the murals, or maybe the murals lead you to the book — we’ve dreamed of having some sort of community art project to bring people in.”

Della-Maria said she anticipates the book will be ready by the end of the month, with not only the story of the Snallygaster, but also information on all of the artists involved and their stories.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun