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Staff photo by Stevie St. John
Reba Wells Grandrud, left, the president of the Old Spanish Trail Association, speaks at the dedication of the Old Spanish Trail mural on Main Street. At right is Jane Laraman-Brockhurst of Main Street Murals.

Conference honors local history

Newest downtown mural dedicated

BARSTOW - Cars slowed. Windows rolled down. En route to the Grand Canyon, Jason Hwang of Toronto stopped to take part.

"There's a big crowd," he said. "It just attracts people, you know."

The reason for the crowd - and food, music and American Indian dancing - was the dedication of Main Street Murals' newest project, the Old Spanish Trail mural, at 111 East Main Street. The dedication took place at noon on Saturday in order to coincide with the Old Spanish Trail Association conference, which Barstow Community College hosted from Thursday through Sunday. Local historian Clifford Walker spearheaded bringing the event to Barstow, which the historic trail passes through.

The mural depicts not only the work of mural designer David Brockhurst and other Main Street Murals artists but also of children from six Barstow schools who completed a four-month unit on the trail. The children painted four panels, placed on the wall beneath Brockhurt's design.

"They've done a fabulous job, and we've had a fabulous time," said Jane Laraman-Brockhurst of Main Street Murals.

Laraman-Brockhurst said the mural and painters got a lot of community support. For three weeks, artists worked to paint the design. Drivers honked. People brought lunch. Finally, the project was completed and ready to show off for history buffs such as Reba Wells Grandrud, the president of the Old Spanish Trail Association, a group with about 400 members.

Grandrud, who formally dedicated the mural, commended the project for combining history, education and youth.

"You can't beat it," said Grandrud, who came from Phoenix for the conference, which included panel discussions, area field trips, a banquet and the annual membership meeting.

About 110 people attended the conference, according to Lorraine Carpenter, the organization's membership coordinator. Carpenter said she was embarrassed to admit she's from the state of Washington; it's "way off the trail."

Though people came from several states and six all the way from the United Kingdom, Carpenter estimated that 90 percent of conference-goers were Californians, many local.

"I'd say Barstow is interested," Grandrud said.

Brad Mastin is certainly interested. Born in Anaheim and raised in Southern California, he said he knew nothing of the Old Spanish Trail until the association's efforts swayed Congress to recognize it. Then he began to learn about the state's history and its ties to the trail. He spoke enthusiastically of the area's history as part of Spain and Mexico. He pointed out that mapless riders covered ground that's not easy even today from atop a motorcycle.

"It is our history, really," said Mastin, a recreation planner in the Bureau of Land Management's office in Barstow.

Part of the BLM's mission, he said, is to preserve cultural heritage.

Along with the Old Spanish Trail group and the National Parks Service, the BLM is working on a proposed $50,000 project to do an archeological investigation on Emigrant Pass, a part of the trail about two hours northwest of Barstow.

To Rita Martinez, "just soaking up information" was the event's appeal. Martinez, a nursing assistant at Barstow Community Hospital, came to Barstow from Colorado six months ago and joined the Mojave River Valley Museum, which led her to develop an interest in geology. Through the museum, she heard about the conference.

"It's just something to do here in Barstow," she said.

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