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The Santa Fe is back in town

When a generous group of Fallbrook citizens donated funds to the Art in Public Places program to add a hand-painted mural to the historic downtown area depicting how the Santa Fe Railroad used to make its way through the Friendly Village, it led to a trip down memory lane for local artist Brett Stokes.

Stokes, selected to create the mural, took the project a step beyond personal and included not only treasured memories of the past but a glimpse into the future with his work.

“I tried to create more than just a train; I tried to create an ambiance of what Fallbrook was and is,” said Stokes.

Explaining that he grew up in Fallbrook, attended local schools and established his art business here, Stokes said he wanted to include what he felt were significant symbols of Fallbrook life, past, present and future.

The mural, entitled ‘Santa Fe Crossing Main,’ was unveiled at a dedication event on Friday, November 14.

It is located on the side of a building at 232 South Main (at the intersection of Elder Street).

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad crossed Main, between Elder and Fig streets, from 1904 until the early 1970s.

The dedication ceremony was opened by Jim Swan, chairman of the Art in Public Places program, a division of Fallbrook Center for the Arts.

Swan gave an overview of the project and credited volunteer Jerri Patchett with coordinating the effort to create the mural.

Judy Gillespie gave the approximate 110 people in attendance a historical overview of the Santa Fe Railroad operation through Fallbrook and shared memories she had gathered from longtime residents Margaret Ray, Marion Clemmens, Mary Rivers and Virginia Grossman.

Overall, the mural is reminiscent of a colorful old packing crate label.

In addition to the image of a train traveling down the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line, Stokes added images with historical significance to Fallbrook: an olive tree, a lush citrus grove, an avocado tree laden with the pear-shaped fruit, a lemon and the stately old Ellis Hotel.

The incorporation of images of plump grapes and a well-tended vineyard looks to the future, as plantings of these crops are on the rise, especially with water prices escalating and availability reduced.

Creating the train was obviously a joy for Stokes. He explained that in his youth, he found the train sounds comforting. “I found the sound of the train coming through town to be a calming experience,” he said.

It was evident that the mural was more than just a commissioned art project for Stokes; it evolved into a tribute to his favorite town. “This is my hometown.

It was a great place to grow up,” he said.

Stokes, known for his individual style and quick wit, couldn’t resist planting the seed for laughter.

“This is a momentous occasion; it’s my first successful project with a committee,” he quipped. “I appreciate all the support to get this done.”

Donors to mural project include the Angel Society, Mickey and Dawne Goodwin McCullough, Helene Ross, James and Janis Swan, Rotary Club of Fallbrook, Arlyne Ingold, Fallbrook Village Rotary Club, MRW Group, Inc., Vince Ross and Robert and Robin Erickson.

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