Colorful competition: Ali, Harley Quinn among murals at Chalk the Block

Tonya Youngberg of West Bountiful, Utah, works on her Harley Quinn mural Saturday during the annual Chalk the Block in downtown St. Joseph. Youngberg has been working with chalk for 10 years. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Tonya Youngberg of West Bountiful, Utah, works on her Harley Quinn mural Saturday during the annual Chalk the Block in downtown St. Joseph. Youngberg has been working with chalk for 10 years. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — A mixture of colors and creativity flooded the streets of downtown St. Joseph on Saturday.

Thousands walked among various professional and local artists amid the first day of Chalk the Block.

Among the local artists were Sam and Zach Mandarino, brothers from St. Joseph. The twins, who are both 14 years old, decided to make a homage to legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

Beneath a chalky reflection of Ali poised near a speed bag, the brothers inscribed the fighter’s famous “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” quote, along with the dates of his birth and death. Ali, who died this year, had a home in Berrien Springs and was well-liked in the area.

“We all sat down and talked about it,” said Sam Mandarino. “We chose the picture to base it off of. He was a good guy and popular around here.”

Saturday marked the Mandarinos first time taking part in Chalk the Block. Both started at 8 a.m. and worked hard through the hot afternoon in anticipation of Sunday’s deadline where each piece is judged. The Mandarinos said they chose to take part in the artist competition because their grandmother has been doing it for years.

One of the professional artists on the street Saturday was Tonya Youngberg.

Dozens of artists show off their skills Saturday during the annual Chalk the Block in downtown St. Joseph. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Dozens of artists show off their skills Saturday during the annual Chalk the Block in downtown St. Joseph. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

The Utah native has worked with chalk for 10 years and went with a colorful character from DC Comics. Youngberg said she chose to replicate an artist’s rendering of popular Batman villain Harley Quinn because of the colors the character flaunts.

“Comics are in right now,” she said. “But I chose her because I love her colors.”

St. Joseph Today Director Whitney Behnke said they revamped this year’s Chalk the Block since it was the event’s 20th appearance. This year, more chalk space was incorporated and an artist workshop that took place Friday was added.

Behnke said they also recruited six professionals from across the country to take part in the competition.

“A lot of the artists are staying with local families,” Behnke said. “It’s been this whole new community experience.”

St. Joseph Today staff quarantined the downtown area at 5 a.m. Friday and measured spots to paint before continuing for another six hours of prep work. Behnke, whose been involved with the event’s planning since February, said the work has been worth it.

“I think the turnout has been fantastic. I mean, the weather is beautiful, which definitely helped,” she said. “This event is one for all ages to enjoy. In addition to coming out to see that, there’s so much more to do downtown.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 7, 2016)
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