It’s more than just scenery that’s turning heads these days on a popular biking trail in Longwood.
People are seeing the faces of celebrities smiling back at them, and it’s all thanks to a few strokes of Jeff Sonksen’s paintbrush.
“I’ve seen some murals and stuff, but nothing like this,” said Chad Mitchem, who came from Sanford to see the murals.
It started as Sonksen, a cabinetmaker, was looking for more work. The jobs just weren’t coming.
“Originally I was gonna hang up a huge business card, in hopes of getting a little business,” said Sonksen.
But Sonksen said county ordinances wouldn’t allow that. So he started grabbing his paintbrushes.
“I won’t even know what colors I’m gonna use. I just look up at the shelf to see what colors are there," Sonksen said. "Everything is spontaneous.”
In just the last few months, Sonksen has painted more than 85 murals on the back of his parents’ property in Longwood, which faces the Seminole Wekiva Trail.
“They’re a great distraction when you’re running, you stop and read them and they make you laugh,” said Melanie Roberts.
It’s a who’s who of Hollywood actors and famous sports stars. There’s even a tribute to Sept. 11. Everyone seems to have their favorite.
“Dale Earnhardt on the end, of course,” said Mitchem.
“Everything is beautiful, absolutely iconic," Vanessa Fleming said, pointing to her favorite. "The ‘I Love Lucy’ one. My friend woke me up this morning and said I had to come check this out. Never seen anything like this on a trail.”
“I thought I’d have to do a mile of this before people would notice, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I thought,” said Sonksen.
“I told him he needs to do Patrick Swayze, and he said he would think about it,” said Dorothy Mitchem.
Sonksen said at one point he put out a suggestion box. In a few days, it was filled with more than 150 requests. In fact, he’s getting so many requests, he’s running out of fence space. He’s trying to convince several property owners down the trail to let him use their fences, so he can do more paintings.
Sonksen said perhaps the greatest thing that has come from this, is the inspiration he’s given a man who’s fighting cancer.
“He says it motivates him to see if I put up something new, inspires him to ride his bicycle and exercise, and that’s kind of cool if you think about that,” Sonksen said.
And that’s why Sonksen said he’s going to keep on painting, as long as he can go down the trail.
Sonksen said he uses scrap paint and recycled fenceboard for his murals.
If you would like to see the murals, they are approximately three miles south of Lake Mary Boulevard, between Dixon and E.E. Williamson roads in Longwood.