Banners showcase hometown pride

Mike Sheehy
Mike Sheehy
Zoe Kuhn
Zoe Kuhn

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When you say you're from Louisville, it means something. There's a sense of pride in the Derby City that can be felt radiating from those of us who call it home. That's the idea behind a set of banners, up around the city.

You've probably seen them because they're hard to miss, the famous faces with the slogan "so and so's Louisville" or "Kentucky's - fill in the blank." A lot of work goes into picking them and getting the banners up on buildings around Louisville.

Twelve-year-old Zoe Kuhn's talents are diverse. "I do acting and dancing classes. Also I like being on stage and sort of being the center of attention."

Her heroes are about what you'd expect.

"Jennifer Lawrence is a very influential actress and it is really special and cool to me that she is from my hometown, Louisville," she wrote in a letter to the Louisville Pride Foundation, which is responsible for the Hometown Heroes banners. "So I'm just putting it out there. It would be so cool!!"

Zoe wants Jennifer Lawrence to join the famous faces peering out around town. "Somewhere where a lot of people would see it because I think she's very important," she said.

Mike Sheehy heads up Louisville Pride, which started with a meeting and a brainstorm about Louisville's most-famous face.

"Our goal was just to put Muhammad Ali up so we did that in 2002," Sheehy said.

That was supposed to be it, but then the Louisville Slugger Museum asked about putting up one for Pee Wee Reese and the idea took off.

"Originally we were just going to do sports figures and then we started thinking. Ed Hamilton the sculptor came up and we thought we've got a lot broader talent in this market," said Sheehy.

Now there are business leaders like bourbon pioneer George Garvin Brown, inspirational figures like Patrick Henry Hughes and lesser known heroes like the may 2013 addition of Ruddel Stitch. He was a top welterweight boxer in the 1950s whose life was cut short when he drowned trying to save a friend.

"You've got the sort of unknowns, which is neat. It's more of an educational thing and you've got the more obvious ones," Sheehy said.

He said they all got there the same way: Louisville Pride gets a nomination for a banner and then the group discusses it. If approved,it's up to whoever sent in the nomination to raise enough money to pay for it. How much? Anywhere from $5,000 for smaller banners that are easy to install to $60,000 for the really big ones

"Installation for those big ones is what's really expensive 'cause you've got to rent a crane and you have to close streets," Sheehy said.

Over the years,  Sheehy said the banners have changed. "The only other one we've replaced is Ali because we had to move it from the original spot where the Yum! Center is now. The only really one I'd like to replace is the Kentucky Derby one. That was the only one we did in full color and it's starting to fade pretty bad."

Some of the images are switched up to work large-scale. For instance, Sheehy said Pat Day's iconic Derby pose didn't translate well when they tried to transfer it to a banner.

"We had to bring him in the studio and reshoot that pose where he's standing with hands up. So we had to get the hat that he wore. We got the silks, shot it in the studio. Nobody could tell the difference."

In former Louisville coach Denny Crum's case, it was positioning that caused an issue.

"I flip flopped Denny's picture so he was facing the Yum! Center and I didn't realize it but then I started getting calls that his part was on the wrong side of his head," said Sheehy.

Each one, though, has a single goal - showing pride in Louisville.

That brings us back to Zoe and her favorite Louisvillian: Jennifer Lawrence, who shows us that big dreams really are born in Louisville.

"She shows people that even if they're from a small town they can still follow their dreams," Zoe said.

Good news for Zoe -- Lawrence is among the list of people who have been approved but are just waiting for funding and a place to put their banners. Zoe thinks she might do bake sales and car washes to help raise money for the Lawrence banner.

The next one to go up though will be former NFL star Will Woolford who is now coaching St. X football in his hometown.

The banners are contracted to stay up for two years but most remain long past that.

In fact, the only one that's ever come down was Mary T. Meagher whose banner on the side of Norton Suburban that had to be removed when Norton started construction on the building.

To read more about the people who have been honored with a banner, click here.

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