Forks ‘mural man’ strikes at bowling alley

By Joe Smillie, Forum Editor


With a grazing elk in a meadow, freshly fallen trees and a warm sky full of stratus clouds, Vern Hestand has left his latest mark on Forks.


The local renaissance man, whose efforts include chain saw art, radio broadcasting, film work and just about any other creative outlet you can find, just finished a new mural above the pins at Sunset Lanes.


“If I don’t do a mural every year, I start to go nuts keeping that inside,” Hestand said.


Last year, he painted an orca on the south side of the Olympic Car Wash.


“It’s my crusade to color the town,” he said.


This year, he was commissioned by Sunset Lanes owner Wade McCoy to spruce up the scene above the end of the lanes.


“He’s done a great job. We just needed something to make it feel a little brighter,” McCoy, the fourth owner of the 53-year-old bowling alley, said.


Hestand said he enjoyed painting the lanes because it makes them a warmer, more inviting place to be.


“This is one of the few entertainment places in town,” Hestand said. “It’s important to keep it a warm, exciting place.”


The wall at the back of the alley originally was painted by a hitchhiker passing through town in the 1960s, McCoy said.


“I guess he needed some money to keep moving, so they let him paint the wall,” he said.


It was a rough job, Hestand said, that was touched up in 1975.


“It looked like a Coors can,” Hestand said, comparing the stark mountain scene he replaced to the Colorado brewery’s trademark logo.


“But it didn’t make sense. We really don’t have a whole lot of snow out here.”


So Hestand replaced it with a summer scene, a meadow with blooming flowers, cut down the middle by a ribbon of U.S. Highway 101 and a touch of the city.


Most of the paint came from Hestand’s home stash.


He used spray paint to create wispy clouds on the walls that drop from the ceiling at regular intervals above the lanes.


The illusion is one of wind-blown cloudy skies as the viewer walks in front of the lanes.  


Hestand pointed out his paint job included a good deal of cleaning off drips of nicotine that had gathered on the wall from the days when the bowling alley allowed cigarettes and was filled with the cloudy haze of tobacco smoke.


“It was gross, but I have to say, that collection of nicotine was pretty impressive in some respect,” Hestand said.


He painted the mural over the past two weeks, spending an estimated 50 hours working on the scene.


Hestand has been painting since he was 6 years old and painted a mural of Disney characters when he was 16 to start his large-wall scenic creations.


He’s now working with area teen experts to develop mural projects that troubled teens can help paint to occupy their time.


“It’s a great way to give kids something to channel their energy and creativity,” he said.


As for payment?


McCoy and Hestand worked out an arrangement for credit at the bowling alley.


“It’s great. I can bring the kids down, bowl a couple of games and have some burgers and just have a great night,” Hestand said.

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