By Bonnie Arnold, contributing writer
When you drive down Bay Street from the foot of the Main Street Bridge (in front of the Jaguars building, also known as the Bostwick Building) to EverBank Field, do you realize you are driving over 263 PawPrints?
The paw prints first appeared 20 years ago when a few members of the JAX Chamber Downtown Council‘s Board decided to quietly sneak out and start the tradition. Local artist Jim Draper, who designed our PawPrint stencils, outlined a Jaguar on the Bostwick Building, and his students painted it.
We thought: ”Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine the Jaguar came out during the night and walked all the way to the stadium, leaving his PawPrints? We’ll just secretly go out the next morning and paint them!” For years no one really knew how they got there. And we delighted in all the fun and novelty of it, especially being secretive rebels. We closed lanes of traffic, created graffiti, caused curiosity – all for the good cause of promoting our new Jacksonville Jaguars.
Painting of the PawPrints, a primary event of the Downtown Council, is now an annual community event for families. Each year, we have more than 300 participants, official permissions from more entities than you can even imagine, trolleys, Jaxon deVille, the Roar, JSO in full force, street lane closures, portable restrooms, media everywhere, prizes, teams, and we give away 500 complimentary Jacksonville Jaguars preseason tickets!
This year, we have more and larger sponsorships, live radio broadcast with 1010XL Sports radio and are scheduled to be featured in the Jaguars’ scrimmage e-newsletter to be sent out to all season ticket holders.
And, in another annual tradition, we celebrate and toast our success at the Painting of the PawPrints AfterParty, just as we did in 1995. We all enjoy the opportunity to promote our Downtown Jacksonville. It’s another fun kids-of-all-ages event to celebrate our Downtown and promote the opening of the 2014 Jacksonville Jaguars season.
So come on out and join us tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 2, at 8 a.m. Meet at Lot X at A. Philips Randolph and Bay Street, grab your paint, roller/tray, hop on a trolley and Paint the PawPrints! All year, you can point out and brag about the one YOU painted.
Bonnie Arnold is a local business owner and member of the Downtown Council. She helps organize the Painting of the PawPrints event each year.