PRR co-founder Garry Petersen was the driving force behind that artwork. It's something he treasured so much that he kept copies of each year's posters, framing several of them to display in his house. It turns out, Petersen was a firm believer of posters to help promote a cause, and not just the PRR, whose proceeds he donated each year to the Marion County Children's Guardian Home in Irvington. (The home, which cared for homeless, abused and neglected children, was founded in 1898 and cared for needy children until closing about seven years ago.)
An advocate of urban forestry and the founder and longtime president of the Irvington Foresty Foundation, Petersen also used posters to call attention to and promote urban forestry and the annual Arbor Day observance.
After Petersen died last September at the age of 64, his family donated the PRR poster and plaque collection to the Irvington Historical Society. They handed the Arbor Day and urban forestry poster collection to the Indiana State Library.
At 1 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center in Irvington, the Irvington Historical Society will open a month-long exhibit of Petersen's PRR collection, which dates from 1983 to 1998, the year after Petersen officially handed over full PRR organizational responsibilities to Tuxedo Brothers Event Management. Posters continued to be issued for eight more years after that, but unfortunately, by 2007, sales waned dramatically. The 2006 poster was the final one issued.
PRR posters, winner plaques and some participant t-shirts were designed by two Indianapolis graphics arts firms -- Serigraphics and High End Graphics. Jeff Pate of Serigraphics, one of the artists who had a hand in the poster creations, provided helpful information in the research I did to prepare the text in this article.
The posters were featured in stories that ran in Running Times magazine and The Indianapolis Star daily newspaper in the 1980s. In fact, Running Times anointed the PRR as one of the "great races to run" in 1987 in all of the United States. The magazine explained that the "great race to run" designation meant that the race "usually is one of the proudest achievements of the city, serving as a highly visible and inspiring demonstration of what can happen when the city's government joins forces with its citizens in a project about which thousands of people are genuinely enthusiastic."
Mike Carroll, vice president for community affairs at Eli Lilly Co. in Indianapolis, was a member of the PRR's board of directors and race chairman in its early years. Carroll also was a former special assistant/aide to U.S. Sens. Richard G. Lugar and Dan Quayle, both R-Ind., and a former deputy mayor in the administration of Indianapolis Mayor William H. Hudnut. Petersen, an economic, municipal government and public policy consultant, got to know Carroll when the latter worked for Lugar, Quayle and Hudnut. The two hit it off well, and eventually they teamed up to work the PRR.
The 1991 photo appearing in the text of this column above, provided by Garry's wife, Terri, shows Garry (far right), Mike Carroll, Terri, and the Petersens' son, Erik, then just shy of a year old. The three adults are wearing PRR gear in preparation for that year's running of the race.
I remember Garry speaking highly of Carroll in our early interactions, which started in spring 1986. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I called Garry on Sept. 11, 1992, from the IndyStar newsroom when I heard about a two-plane crash near Greenwood (Ind.) Municipal Airport. Authorities were reporting that all five people aboard a twin-engine Mitsubishi MU-2 carrying Carroll, three other Indianapolis civic leaders and the pilot had been killed, along with the pilot of the other aircraft, a single-engine Piper. Two others in the Piper were seriously injured. The crash occurred shortly after the MU-2 took off from the airport; the Piper was trying to land.
Carroll's death deeply affected Petersen. It happened so close to that year's PRR that Petersen had no time to prepare anything special to commemorate his friend at the race except for adding the phrase "Let the light be passed" to the t-shirts. The following year, 1993, he commissioned the special 3D poster you see in the photo leading off the post (click on the photo to bring up a larger version). It bears the longer tribute line: "Let the light be passed so the vision is never lost."
Above: The first poster, issued for the second PRR in 1983.
Garry moved from Irvington to Franklin, Ind., in the mid-1980s. He continued to run the PRR into the mid-1990s before handing it off officially to Tuxedo Brothers Event Management after the 15th anniversary race in 1996. The event is staged the last Saturday in October and runs in conjunction with the long-running annual Irvington Halloween Festival. In 2016, Tuxedo Brothers renamed the running event the Pleasant Run Vampire Run to better partner with the Halloween festivities.
The PRR always sponsored a spaghetti dinner at the Irvington Presbyterian Church on Audubon Avenue on the night before the race. For a while, they even used posters to promote those dinners. The example in the photo at left is from 1987 or 1992, years when Oct. 30 fell on a Friday.
Paula Schmidt, the historical society and Bona Thompson Memorial Center volunteer who is preparing the Petersen PRR poster collection for next month's exhibit, also will show what she said is endearingly referred to as the PRR "Franken Trophy." I vaguely recall Garry talking about this amusing sidebar in which a team trophy was awarded to the city of Indianapolis for its support of the race at some point in the early years.
The original trophy can be see in the photo immediately below, a group picture taken with Mayor Hudnut (seated, center) holding a proclamation for Pleasant Run Run on Sept. 23, 1986, a month before that year's race. Petersen is in the photo as well, at the far left. With Paula Schmidt's help, I found this photo at the Institute for Civic Leadership and Digital Mayoral Archives website, housed by the University of Indianapolis. It was called Franken Trophy because of the parts that would be added to it later -- a la Frankenstein. I'm not sure if Garry was aware of what happened to it in the 20+ years or so after the hardware transformed into Franken Trophy. If he told me, I've since forgotten ... but it would have been many years ago. Maybe someone reading this post will know some or all of the story, and provide it in the comments section.
Apparently, in the years thereafter, someone in city government got the idea -- maybe as a joke or prank -- to physically embellish the trophy. A middle section and a larger base were added, increasing its size by about 75 percent (its present stature is shown in the photo at right). Then it apparently was forgotten about and/or misplaced for many years, resurrecting only within the last few years.
Below are some more samples of the Petersen PRR Collection through the years. The artwork on T-shirts early on included an iconic runner (pictured at left), and it was decided quickly that the runner would be carried over to shirts issued in subsequent years.
If you pull up a large version of the very first poster below, you'll notice a small, pseudo-emoji of sorts -- Paula called it a "cartouche" -- at the bottom right. She said this was the way the artist (either from Serigraphics or High End Graphics) chose to sign that artwork. I found it on a few other posters.
The exhibit runs through mid-November at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center, 5350 University Ave., which sits on property that was the original campus of Butler University. The site is about three blocks southeast of the intersection of Emerson Avenue and Washington Street.
Memorial Center and Historical Society staff are volunteers, so if you can possibly assist with a donation, I know they would appreciate it.
As always, click on any image if you'd like to see a larger, sharper version of it. This is particularly useful when accessing the blog using a mobile device. To view a full gallery of images featuring the Garry Petersen PRR poster and artwork collection, click on the link in this sentence.