BRISTOL BOROUGH >> The kids in Bristol aren’t the only ones looking sharp as a pistol.
So does everyone involved with Bristol Borough’s latest mural project, which has immortalized the 1960s hit song, “The Bristol Stomp,” by the Dovells, on the side of the William Penn Bank.
On April 27, under brilliant skies, the three artists who brought the mural to life - Tony Napoli, John Ennis and AnnieRose Kruzinski - joined officials from William Penn Bank and Raising the Bar to cut the ribbon on the town’s latest mural during a public celebration at Market and Old Route 13.
“What a turnout! We are thrilled to have a home in such a passionate town like Bristol, and we're honored to immortalize such an iconic piece of local history on our wall,” said Ken Stephon, William Penn Bank’s CEO.
“Thanks to Bill Pezza, Raising the Bar, Tony Napoli, John Ennis, Annie Kruzinski and all of the artists and participants for their dedication and hard work in bringing this dream project to life! A beautiful night indeed!”
The mural, sponsored by Bristol Borough-based William Penn Bank and facilitated by the civic group, Raising the Bar, features a giant jukebox, two Bristol kids doing the Bristol Stomp on a record and the words, “The kids in Bristol,” a line from the song.
The “Bristol Stomp” by the Dovells, rose to number two on the Billboard charts in 1961 and was inspired by dances held during that era at the Goodwill No. 3 fire house. The record went gold with more than one million copies sold and has remained a cherished part of Bristol’s history.
“It’s been a difficult year for everyone,” said Stephon. “The bank wanted to do something to bring a smile to people’s faces while celebrating Bristol’s pop culture heritage. Judging by the initial response, I believe we’ve accomplished that.”
Raising the Bar President, Bill Pezza, added, “We were thrilled when William Penn Bank approached us with the idea. Promoting art in outdoor spaces where people can enjoy it every day has been one of our goals. We’re grateful to the bank for advancing and financing the idea, and pleased that we can showcase a team of truly gifted artists.”
Tuesday’s celebration also featured comments by the artists and local officials, a DJ, vintage cars from the era, hot dogs and popcorn for the kids, and a Bristol Stomp dance contest won by Theresa Grabriella-Frey.
“It was everything that you’d expect a Bristol Stomp dedication to be,” said Tony Napoli, who retuned to his hometown to lead the mural project.
Napoli was raised on nearby Wood Street in the Borough. His father was a local sign painter in town for more than 40 years. “As I was growing up I worked with him on many projects. We did the lettering at the Bristol Wharf. We did so many jobs around town.”
Napoli went on to teach art in the Pennsbury School District where for more than 28 years he led the Pennsbury High School Prom’s decorating team.
For the mural project, Napoli was assisted by Bristol native, John Ennis, a nationally known and gifted portrait artist. Also assisting was Borough resident AnnieRose Kruzinski, a former student of Napoli who he regards as one of the best.
“It’s very satisfying to look at it right now and see the vision that you had. There’s really nothing about it that I would change,” said Napoli. “We are happy with the colors. We are happy with the design. We are happy with all the artists’ work. The bottom line for me is that when I look at it there’s nothing that I would change. There’s nothing I would do differently.”
Napoli came up with the design, inspired, in part, by a maquette created by Bristol artist Bridget Ennis Shaw of two dancers doing the Stomp.
The maquette had been housed at the former Centre for the Arts for five years, with the dream of one day finding a funding source to make a sized bronze version. Now, an image of it is a prominent component of the mural.
Napoli incorporated the couple into the mural, picturing them dancing on a record. He also added a jukebox, the placement of which at the center of the mural he credits to his wife, Shirlee. “That was a game changer,” he said. “That’s what set it apart from the other designs. Everything worked.”
The mural is the latest to pop up in Bristol Borough as part of Raising the Bar’s public art program, inspired by Pezza who had long advocated for such a program in town.
Through the efforts of Raising the Bar, in late 2019 and early 2020, artist Jean-Marc Dubus created a mural at PKB Contractors on Old Bristol Pike. The “Bristol Borough, Settled by the World’s People” mural features a portrait of the immigrants who helped build the small town along the Delaware into a vibrant community.
Also in 2020, Penn Community Bank unveiled and dedicated a new mural on the back wall of its Bristol Borough bank overlooking the Mill Street parking lot.
Also created by Jean-Marc Dubus, the mural features images of Bristol Borough from yesterday and today, including the Grundy Mill and clock tower, a modern day Mill Street scene, the Bristol Wharf, the statue of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman overlooking the nearby waterfront, the Bristol Borough Hall, a tall ship docked at the Bristol Boat Dock and a historic view of Mill Street.