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Solon Next stop on Freedom Rock Tour

Solon Area Community Foundation funding patriotic mural at Legion ballpark

SOLON– This October Solon will represent Johnson County as part of the Freedom Rock Tour.
Originating in 1999 as a single boulder in the town of Greenfield, the tour has expanded to over 20 counties throughout the state, with each rock getting its own unique, patriotic mural.
The only question is, how do we get it here?
Denny Gruber, of the Solon Area Community Foundation, is after one rock in particular and it’s over seven feet tall, 12 feet wide and 37 feet around.
Not to mention, it’s stuck in the middle of a field, so moving it even just a few miles is no small feat.
The rock, donated by foundation member Kevin Shima, will have to be lifted by crane then transported to its final resting place in Legion Park by Jay Proffitt of Proffitt Construction, who has also donated his services.
After that, it’s staying put.
Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II is the artist who came up with the idea of the Freedom Rock as a way to thank and honor veterans. The rock, in his hometown of Greenfield, is painted with a different patriotic design each year.
In 2013, Sorensen decided to bring a Freedom Rock to each of the 99 counties to continue to honor U.S. veterans and help boost tourism in the selected towns and cities.
Only one town per county is selected and bookings are done on a first-come, first-served basis. The first town in the county to submit both an application and $1,000 deposit gets the honor of being part of the tour.
Currently over 50 counties have signed up to be a part of the tour. At a rate of 10 to 12 rocks per year, Sorensen expects to get through all 99 Iowa counties by 2023, according to his website.
Solon Area Community Foundation member Don Erusha first brought up the idea of Solon being the Johnson County representative in a meeting last year and after checking to see if this would be something financially feasible, the foundation decided to apply.
Gruber, in particular was very excited about the prospect. Originally from the Greenfield area, he’s visited the original rock on more than one occasion.
“Since I grew up near the town near where the rock is… I thought it was a really nice attraction,” Gruber said. “I just didn’t know they had a tour until last year.”
The foundation agreed to fund the rock, which Gruber expects to cost close to $10,000 when moving expenses, painting supplies, Sorensen’s lodging, and painting fees are put together.
Though the foundation is funding the rock, it is working closely with Solon’s American Legion and the city itself.
Gruber said the Legion was incredibly excited to be a part of the project and is allowing the rock to be placed outside of Legion Park’s baseball diamond, right behind left field.
“When you’re driving, you’ll be able to see it from both sides there,” Gruber said.
The Legion is also working to create a design that will encompass the entire rock and honor veterans from all branches of the military.
“We thought it would help tie into the very strong veteran community (in Solon) with the Legion monument,” Gruber said. “The people involved have a lot to do with vets or are vets.”
Sorensen will paint Solon’s rock, which will be hidden under a tarp during the process, from Oct. 12 through Oct. 24. On the final day, the rock will be revealed to the public.
Once it’s painted, the design is expected to last 50 years, though Sorensen will make any necessary retouches, according to Gruber.
The City of Solon has also recently applied for a grant for beautification for the area around the rock, including landscaping and a sidewalk leading up to it.
“I think the committee sees Solon as an expanding town, nice to draw people here whenever we can,” Gruber said. “It’s a nice attraction, that could help put Solon more on the map than it is.”