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VALPARAISO | Folks were sprawled on the sidewalk Saturday encircling the Porter County Courthouse. Still others were walking around, admiring the art taking shape.

About 115 sidewalk squares — each sponsored by a local business for $100 to $1,000 — came alive with chalk drawings and the colors of the rainbow at the third annual Chalk the Walk, a fundraiser sponsored by the Family and Youth Services Bureau of Porter County.

Some of the chalk artists were employees of the sponsoring businesses, while others were art students from Porter County schools.

Taylor Rossetti, 15, a Valparaiso High School honors art student, colored in a brown and white beagle on the Canine Country Club/Brown Tire sidewalk square.

“She’s been practicing in our driveway,” said Audrey Rossetti, Taylor’s mother. “We finally told her, ‘You’ve got to do the one downtown.’”

FYSB Director of Development and Community Relations Jackie Gray said when the group first came up with the idea of Chalk the Walk they “wanted something that hadn’t been done here in Valparaiso.”

“We wanted it to be family friendly, community-oriented, and affordable for the businesses to participate,” Gray said.

Gray said she feels the event accomplishes those goals well — and the chalk has staying power.

“People come down here, walk around, and look at the beautiful art,” Gray said. “It’s basically a free art exhibit that lasts for weeks.”

Cathy Brown, of Valpo Velvet, gave out free scoops of ice cream to the artists and their admirers as the day’s temperature and humidity soared.

“It’s a great thing they are doing here — it’s just a beautiful thing,” Brown said.

Emily Aytes, a counselor with Family and Youth Services Bureau, sprawled on her stomach while coloring a scene of orange koi fish in a pond, while Kirsten Crouch worked at the opposite end.

“It’s calm and very colorful,” Crouch said.

Aytes runs girls’ counseling and support group at FYSB, and both Crouch and her daughter, Kairi Barnett, 8, use FYSB.

“We work on relaxation and how to use art to express your emotions,”  Aytes said. “It helps the girls build social skills and self-esteem, and make friends.”

Crouch said her daughter has “really come out of her shell” thanks to the group, and she is thankful for the help she receives.

“If it wasn’t for them, I would be in the nuthouse by now,” Crouch said. “And it’s affordable — I didn’t have to worry about arm-and-a-leg payment.”

Becky Vogelpohl and Cassie Boehlke, of the Graduate and Extended Learning office at Purdue North Central, chose a Dr. Seuss theme for the PNC square.

Vogelpohl said this is PNC’s second year in the event.

“We learned a few things this year that we’ll incorporate next year,” Vogelpohl said.

At noon, the ladies were ready for an ice cream cone and some shade.

“I just want to take a shower,” Boehlke said.

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Senior Copy Editor

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.