By contributor Gary Sosniecki

LEBANON, Missouri-   Ceremonial first tiles were placed Friday morning on the first of three Route 66 murals being erected in Lebanon’s Boswell Park, which is being upgraded with a Route 66 theme.

Under the direction of mural developer Paul Whitehill of Joplin-based Whitehill Enterprises, tiles were placed by Laclede County Clerk Glenda Mott; Lebanon Parks Board President James Crawford; Bill Jones, president of the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society; John Shelton, director of Lebanon Parks and Recreation; and Gary Sosniecki, vice president of the Lebanon-Lacede-County Route 66 Society.

The first mural, depicting an iconic 1957 Chevrolet driving Route 66 at the entrance to Lebanon, will be completed this weekend, then covered until an unveiling ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.

Boswell Park fronts Elm Street, which was Route 66’s original path through Lebanon from 1926 to 1957.

The park will be the main site of the Lebanon Route 66 Festival on June 17. The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society is partnering with the Lebanon Parks and Recreation Department to sponsor the festival, which has not been held since 2009 after a nine-year run. Loretta Young, who was chairman of Hillbilly Days, which no longer is held, will be the chairman of the Route 66 Festival committee.

The Route 66 society has set a goal of all three murals being completed by the festival. The second mural, depicting a 1929 Texaco gas truck crossing the Gasconade River bridge in eastern Laclede County, will be erected in six to eight weeks.

Money still is being raised for the third mural, a tribute to the Nelson family, which operated Nelson’s Dream Village and the Nelson Tavern on both sides of Route 66 on the west side of the Missouri 5 intersection.

The three Lebanon murals will be the fourth, fifth and sixth Route 66 murals erected by Whitehill Enterprises, which also has two in Joplin and one in Galena, Kansas. Whitehill said his goal is to build 66 murals along Route 66.

The 20-foot-by-10-foot murals consist of digitally printed kiln-fired tiles.

The Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society is in charge of fund-raising for the $75,000 project. As of today, $55,850 has been raised.

Donors of at least $100 will be recognized on tile plaques on the backs of the murals. The size of the donation will determine the size of the font used in displaying the donor’s name.

Checks may be written to the Lebanon Area Foundation with the notation “Route 66 Mural Project.” They may be mailed to the Lebanon Area Foundation, P.O. Box 1042, Lebanon, MO 65536, or to the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society, P.O. Box 66, Lebanon, MO 65536, or given to any board member of the Route 66 society.

 Photos by Gary Sosniecki