Cow spots in Clinton crosswalk

Iowa dairy princess adds dairy angle to community project

    CLINTON, Iowa – A painted crosswalk in downtown Clinton is not the average urban beautification project. It is, however, reflective of Hillary Burken’s heritage.
    The Iowa dairy princess took to the street June 17 for six hours as part of a partnership between her high school’s Synergy organization and a Paint Iowa Beautiful grant administered by the Clinton Downtown Alliance. The student group, which earns students credit for community service, raised funds for projects that included murals and crosswalks.
    Burken’s choice of design for the crosswalk at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Second Street South was Holstein spots.
    “I’m not much of an artist,” Burken said. “But, I can paint cow spots.”
    Burken comes from a farm only seven minutes from Clinton, Blue Hyll Dairy, owned by her father, Marty Burken. She was crowned Iowa Dairy Princess last August and graduated from Clinton High School this spring. She has spent much of this summer going to dairy promotion appearances while also working on the farm.
    But before graduating, she met with city leaders working to bring downtown Clinton to life and put their grant to work.
    “One of them said it would be cool to paint the crosswalks,” Burken said.  
    While her design was simple, putting it on concrete was not as easy as she thought.
    “The surface is just so coarse,” she said. “After we got the background painted, we decided to just dump a little spot of paint on it and push it out until it looked like a spot.”
    While she and another student did their work, they received plenty of attention from passers-by, including a police officer. The street was blocked off during the painting.
    Other crosswalk designs throughout the area include clouds, a yellow brick road and piano keys with a treble cleft and the word “music.” Burken said the location of the one she painted is good, with many downtown events happening a block away.
    Perhaps more important than the cow-themed crosswalk is how working with Clinton’s leaders connected Burken to her city.
    “I met a lot of great people,” she said. “I fell in love with the idea of working with my city; it is so rewarding. My mindset about (Clinton) is so different now.”
    Burken said her previous experience was that people saw Clinton as a rather grungy urban area.
    She now serves on the Mayor’s Youth Commission, a role that came up during her senior year of high school.
    “The mayor reached out to Synergy and said it was in the constitution that youth be involved in the city,” she said.
    Burken’s experience in Clinton led her to make plans to attend Kansas State University in the fall to pursue community planning and related topics.
    That is a big change from her original plan to pursue an agriculture curriculum, staying close to her dairy farm roots.
    “When I told my father I was thinking of switching my plans, he was good with it,” Burken said. “He told me agriculture will never leave me; that’s where I learned a lot of my skills.”


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