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Articles & Local History > Ronald Reagan Traveling Display


First Ronald Reagan panel unveiled Thursday, May 5, 2005


Ronald Reagan rides into the present on horseback in the first section of a traveling display that will celebrate the former president's life and his connections to numerous central Illinois communities along the Ronald Reagan Trail. The first of 10 panels planned in the $350,000 project was unveiled Wednesday in Henry by representatives of the Ronald Reagan Trail Association, which recently opened a central visitors' center along Illinois Route 29.

Besides a large eye-catching image of Reagan on horseback intended to emphasize the theme "Trails of Greatness," the introductory panel includes graphic displays illustrating Reagan's early life in such communities as Dixon, Eureka, Monmouth and Tampico, and also highlights of his presidency, 1981-89.

"This initial piece has been designed to aid in promotion and fund-raising," said association president Amy Trimble of Oregon. "We will be able to take it to special events, festivals, trade shows and corporate sponsors to increase people's awareness of the project and help raise money for the $350,000 display."

Next month will be the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the trail, which consists of communities that pay population-based membership fees in order to be highlighted in travel literature and promotions. A visitors' center was located in Henry, in a custom embroidery shop owned by association board member Chris Laible, partly because the city is "almost smack-dab in the middle of the trail," Trimble said. But Wednesday's unveiling had to be moved at the last minute to Henry City Hall. The exhibit was too tall for the 7-foot ceiling in Laible's shop.

As projected, the traveling exhibit will be expanded to feature Reagan's life before and during his presidency. It will include a re-created Oval Office, complete with an exact replica of the presidential desk and also an animatronic Reagan - a life-size robot capable of moving and reciting speeches and famous phrases. Viewers of the exhibit will "not only learn about Ronald Reagan's life, you learn even more about U.S. history," said Barkley Scheu of Display Wiz in Park Ridge, one of the firms involved in creating the display.

The immediate goal is to reach sponsors and donors that would provide enough money to have the full display "ready for travel by the end of next year," Trimble said. "It will travel the trail for a year, and then we'll start renting it out (to other locations)." The initial panel was in Henry only for the day, but it is expected to be on display in some other communities along the trail in the future, Trimble said. More information will be available at www.ronaldreagantrail.net.

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