Several hundred cheer the "Pergola's" introduction, a great night at one of "Iowa's Great Places"!

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Several hundred cheer the "Pergola's" introduction, a great night at one of "Iowa's Great Places"!

WAUKEE, Iowa, March 28, 2018 --  It's completed and now open! Officials on Tuesday evening, March 27, cut a ceremonial ribbon and turned on the solar-powered LED lighting at the "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails."

It's the $1.1-million, 340-foot-long, 15-foot-high colorful gateway to the Raccoon River Valley Trail on the west side of Waukee.  It was designed by nationally-known sculptor and "transportation artist" David Dahlquist, of Des Moines and Lake Panorama, and his colleagues at RDG Planning & Design's Dahlquist Art Studio in the capital city.

Components of this art installation will soon be going up at six other trailheads on the 89-mile trail system in west central Iowa.  The development of the art project persuaded state officials to recognize the whole trail as an "Iowa Great Place," making some state funding available, and then individuals, businesses, corporations and foundations stepped up with donations.

You can read complete coverage of the development of the art installation right here.

Several hundred people turned out on a chilly evening Tuesday for the ceremony, but as it went on, the sun peeked through the clouds that had lingered for days. 

"This blazes a new trail of cooperation on the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the other communities," Waukee Mayor Bill Peard told the crowd. "This artwork, which is going to be a truly interactive experience for everybody, is going to be a catalyst for a new identity for this whole region."  

Jim Miller, of rural Waukee, an MVP in the planning, development and fundraising of the project, said two key words "kept coming up, again and again, when a small group of us were talking about what we wanted to do with art here on the trail. Those two words were 'iconic' and 'regional'."

Dahlquist, the artist, called the completion of the Pergola "a Herculean effort" and "one of the most collaborative projects we've been able to be a part of."  He added that "an art project like this is a leap of faith, and thank you for keeping the faith."

He glanced up and around at the artwork and said to his RDG colleagues and the rest of the crowd, "This is made with real love and affection. I hope you keep bringing people out here to see and enjoy it. And the next time I see  you out here, I hope it's a lot warmer and you are on  your bikes!"

You can experience more of the evening in the photos and captions below here.

At dusk and later, the "Pergola" in Waukee glows! This was right after the ribbon cutting on Tuesday evening, March 27.

Waukee Mayor Bill Peard, whose administration has been solid and visionary in its support of the Pergola project, welcomes co-chairperson of the effort Jim Miller to the podium for remarks at the ceremony.

Jim Miller, speaking to the crowd, while Randy Jensen, at the left, looks on. The two led the fantastic fundraising effort that paid for the development, construction and installation of the "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails." Miller lives outside Waukee, while Jensen lives in West Des Moines and at Lake Panorama.

As they listened to other speakers, these four Waukee officials undoubtedly were also contemplating seven years of work, and that they now have an exceptional project completed in Waukee. Left to right are lead fundraiser Jim Miller, Mayor Bill Peard, Parks & Rec Director Matt Jermier, and Summer Evans, the city's marketing & communication director. Evans later in the program stood in the middle of the big crowd and led everybody in a shouted countdown of "10-9-8..." before the Pergola's lights were turned on for the first time for the public. The art installation will be lighted from dusk to dawn every night.

David Dahlquist, the lead artist on "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails," is making notes for his remarks just before he spoke at the ceremony dedicating the Pergola. Dahlquist said the project "is one of the most collaborative projects we've been able to be a part of," and especially praised his colleagues at RDG Planning & Design and that firm's Dahlquist Art Studio in Des Moines.

Artist David Dahlquist speaking to the big crowd under the Pergola in Waukee.

Teammates -- Randy Jensen and Jim Miller, co-chairs of the fundraising effort for the Pergola. After a cloudy day, the sun broke out during the ceremony Tuesday evening.

These two bicyclists had a view from above on this custom-made quad bike they rode around the ceremony. They are Rich Mills on the left, and Rob Muenchrath, both of the Des Moines Bicycle Collective. They nicknamed their bike "Double Trouble."

Don Blum, vice-president of the Waukee Betterment Foundation, which serves as the fiscal agent for the Pergola project, said the group's next project will be supporting the funding and development of a new "Miracle League of Waukee" baseball park, fishing pier and coordinated playground for people with special needs in the community. That will be built less than a mile north of the RRVT trailhead & Pergola -- adjacent to a new high school that will also be built there.

One of the neatest touches on the whole big Pergola project is this salute to (and from) Jack Jordison, who was one of the Raccoon River Valley Trail's most frequent users and biggest advocates before his death in 2011. This signature is on the corner of a huge lighted sign board that displays a complete map of the trail. (See next photo.)

A whole lot of members of the Jack Jordison family were on hand for the Pergola dedication Tuesday evening in Waukee -- that's his wife Barb holding a photo of Jack cycling. The family decided to use memorial money that came in after Jack's death to give one of the first donations to the effort to build the Pergola. "The family wanted to make a donation to the trail, and I had a conversation with them asking if they would consider donating to the big project we were planning, instead of to something smaller like a park bench along the trail," Jim Miller, the lead fundraiser said. "They thought about it and said they would, and that gift right then was so critical in making everything else work on this project. They were very patient with me," during the long wait for the completion of the Pergola.

At the controls -- Matt Jermier, the director of parks & recreation in Waukee, is shown at the controls for the lighting system on the "Waukee Railroad Pergola -- in the shadow of the rails." That black box in the middle of the photo is its computer. The colors of the Pergola's lights, the frequency of their changing and the animations of the lights can all be varied.

The ribbon cutting! With the large ceremonial scissors are (left to right) project co-chair Jim Miller, Waukee Mayor Bill Peard, co-chair Randy Jensen and Parks & Rec Director Matt Jermier. Artist David Dahlquist is holding the ribbon on the right, and holding it on the left is Duwayne Fink of the Waukee Park Board.

Matt Jermier, Waukee's parks & rec director, said he envisions the Pergola becoming a favorite "gathering place" in the community, and you could see that happening Tuesday evening, when conversations lingered long after the ribbon cutting ceremony was completed.