Not only did Downtown Vision's Banner Art Auction fundraising event on Saturday exceed previous years' numbers in terms of attendance, the number of banners and the average price per banner, but one artist's piece also broke the record for the highest bid.
After a two-person bidding war, Dawnnel Francis' oil painting, "Grandpa's 1st Truck," came away with the top bid of $850.
"I was just hoping I wouldn't embarrass myself," Francis said. "This is my first time here, and I am in total shock."
The inspiration for the piece came from her father's old pickup, a red '46 Ford.
"That was his very first pickup, and he kept it all of his life. I made him push it out of the garage so I could take a picture of it, and he told me, 'Now you need to take a picture of it on this side.' So, I did just exactly what he told me to do," Francis said, laughing. "You're supposed to listen to your parents."
Francis has been painting for about eight years and said she is largely self-taught.
"I never felt I was good enough," she said.
Downtown Vision Executive Director Beverly Schmitz Glass said she had a good feeling about Francis' piece the first time she saw it.
"I told her when she brought it in, 'Anything nostalgic like that is going to go big because that was either somebody's first pickup, or their dad's, or their grandpa's, and it will go big,'" Schmitz Glass said.
The bidding war for Francis' piece began with several bidders, but in the end, it was Mary Schoenger of Hays and Mark Green of Garden City who battled it out. The back and forth bids prompted enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, and Schoenger eventually prevailed. She later told Schmitz Glass that there was no way she was going to leave without it.
"Mary's husband died two years ago, and they have an auto detailing place, so she bought it in memory of her husband because they restored old Ford pickups," Schmitz Glass said.
Deb Huber, whose banner captured the top bid of $725 at last year's auction, received a $500 bid Saturday for her banner, "Freshly Picked." It tied for the second highest bid with Rodger Pister's "Little Things." Pister is one of eight new artists of the 21 who participated in the project this year. The other 42 banners drew bids ranging from $75 to $450.
"(Bids of) $75 goes to the banner, and then from $76 to $100 bids go to the artist," Schmitz Glass said.
The artists get 65 percent of their banners' respective bids over $101, with the other 35 percent going to Downtown Vision.
"It's not just about changing out the banners for downtown. It's showing the rest of the community that we take our arts seriously in this community," Schmitz Glass said.
Nicole Lucas, president of Downtown Vision's board of directors, also shared the history behind banner art with the 191 in attendance.
"This idea originated in eastern Easton, Md. Our design committee found out about this, brought it to the board of directors and said, 'Hey, this would be a great idea,'" Lucas said. "At the time we adopted the program, Easton, Md., and Garden City were the only programs in the United States that had a public banner art program. Since 2008, we have had seven Main Street communities across the country adopt the program, and to this day, Garden City is the only program west of Mississippi."
Lucas said that the program has grown dramatically since it's 2008 debut, when there were only 24 banners and the average bid was $95. Each year since then, attendance and average bids have risen steadily, and this year's average bid was $260.67.
Schmitz Glass said that the total of $11,730 raised from this year's event is a 30.9 percent increase from last year. She said this was beyond her expectations.
"We weren't sure how it would go since we were up against the K-State game, but it was pretty awesome," she said.