"A DREAM REALIZED"
The dream all began with Ronald Wilson Reagan. This bronze tribute, entitled Begins the Trail, symbolizes the era during which Ronald Reagan began moving toward a lifetime of politics and leaving behind the land of Hollywood. This statue is the only one of its kind in the world.
Ronald "Dutch" Reagan made several sojourns back to Dixon over the years to catch up with his family, friends, and old acquaintances. It was one of these same visits that inspired sculptor and foundryman Donald L. Reed to conceive the imagery of Begins the Trail.
On August 21st, 1950, Reagan returned home to Dixon to participate in a community festival that was known as the "Injun Summer Days". During the celebration's parade, Reagan rode through the streets of Dixon on horseback. Photographs of that same ride provided Reed, some 30 years later, with his inspiration for a life-sized bronze statue, capturing the vital essence of this festival.
Reagan's horse was owned by Norma Jean (Rorer) Dedow, a teenaged girl from Dixon. Miss Dedow's horse, Pal, had actually been a gift from her father for her 16th birthday that same year. When asked if hometown boy and movie star "Dutch" Reagan could ride her horse in the summer parade, she answered with an enthusiastic "Yes". More than 600 horses and riders joined Reagan for the trail ride down Galena Avenue and into the business district.
Following the death of Reagan in 2004, local donors commissioned and funded the project as a gift to the city of Dixon. The statue was placed on Dixon's Heritage Crossing riverfront development, facing Reagan Way (Hennepin Avenue), overlooking a street with so many memories, and standing vigil as a figure of strength for those affected by Alzheimer's Disease, the one foe our beloved President was unable to defeat.
Located on this street is the Christian Church he attended with his mother, the school that he and his brother went every day to study and play, which is now the Dixon Historic Center, and, just a short walk up the hill is his Boyhood Home. The home is open for tours everyday from April 1-November 15, Mon. -Sat., 10am-4pm. Sun. 1-4.
The Reagan family moved to Dixon on December 6th, 1920. This is the home where they lived until 1931. By this time, Ronald had left for Eureka College, but was still spending summers in Dixon as a lifeguard.
The bronze statue true to life size and weighs roughly 2,000 lbs. Don Reed, a native to Oregon,Il.,presently lives in Janesville, Wisconsin, with his wife Linda and daughter Kylee. Reed created the clay model of Reagan on horseback at his in-house studio. Mr. Reed had carved a bust of Ronald Reagan while he studied at UC-Berkeley and looking back on it, the piece bears a striking resemblance to the one he sculpted some 25 years later. The boots, saddle, and reins are real and were attached to both the horse's body and Reagan's legs for the final step before the statue was cast in bronze in California.
The statue was moved to Dixon on a trailer and very slowly lifted by crane to the awaiting parapet with great applause. The statue was dedicated August 14th, 2009. It sits along the Rock River from which Ronald Reagan saved 77 lives while serving as a lifeguard in the 1920's.