In the last few years, Sanford, North Carolina has become a city of murals. Bright, beautiful and even innovative murals that have added a splash of life to downtown areas in Sanford and Jonesboro.

Today, we rank those murals, from best to not-the-best. Keep in mind, there are no bad murals in this town. Artists Chris Dalton and Scott Nurkin have done wonders with the spaces they’ve been given. But some are better than others, and only The Rant has the courage to officially rank Sanford’s murals.

Editor’s note: We’re not including redone murals that double as advertisements (such as the Coke and Dr Pepper murals). Those are great, too, but aren’t original works of art. 

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1: Old Rip | Celebrating Sanford’s agricultural heritage by depicting the process of taking tobacco to market, the Old Rip mural features a 3D mule and tobacco plants, bordered in gold. Tobacco’s a big part of our history in Lee County, but this gets the top spot because it’s simply gorgeous. The browns and golds and greens please the eyes, and we love the mule.

  • Location: Sanford Rent-All, 526 Wicker Street
  • Sponsors: Grant from State Rep. John Saul
  • Artist: Chris Dalton

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2: Silent Wings | This mural honors Lee Roy Perry, Frank Blalock Sr. and Edward ‘Bucky’ Williams who were glider pilots during World War II. We love the location of this mural, in addition to the color palette. But above all else, it’s the subject matter. These men flew “flying coffins” … learn more about them. It’s fascinating.

  • Location: Corner of Steele and Wicker streets in downtown Sanford
  • Sponsors: Blalock, Perry, and Williams families
  • Artist: Scott Nurkin, The Mural Shop

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3: Fairview Dairy | North Carolina’s first 3D mural honors the Fairview Dairy, founded in 1927 by the Yarborough family with 10 cows to provide milk for all of Sanford. This mural is colorful and, like Old Rip, important to Sanford’s history. We love it.

  • Location: 132 McIver Street in downtown Sanford
  • Sponsors: Grant from Rep. John Sauls, grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, Carol and Ann Yarborough, Paradise Towing and citizen donations
  • Artists: Chris Dalton, Michael Dalton, and Sandy Scott

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4: Jonesboro Cornet Band | The Jonesboro Cornet Band was a well-known musical ensemble in the early 1900s. We love this mural because it’s bright, it’s very well done, and it has a cool Sgt. Peppers vibe to it. More of these, please.

  • Location: Main Street in historic Jonesboro
  • Sponsors: Jonesboro Historical Society, Dr. Larry O’Connell, descendants of the Cornet Band and citizen donations
  • Artist: Scott Nurkin, The Mural Shop

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5: ‘Off to War’ World War II Tribute | This mural honors all the men and women of Sanford and Lee County who have served and protected our country, as well as those who continue to do so. We love the use of the door and the rails on this mural … it, too, has some 3D elements. Like the flying coffins mural, it’s a pretty good tribute, too.

  • Location: Corner of Moore and Carthage streets in downtown Sanford
  • Sponsor: Chris Dalton
  • Artist: Chris Dalton

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6: Sanford Spinners | The first mural, completed back in 2015, honors all the athletes who played for the Sanford Spinners baseball team in the Tobacco State League during the late 1940s. The mural was inspired by Howard Auman, who pitched the Spinners to its first league championship in 1946. It provides needed color and life to a building in downtown Sanford that certainly needed it (and in a spot with a lot of traffic).

  • Location: Corner of Wicker Street and Horner Blvd in downtown Sanford
  • Sponsor: Sanford Contractors
  • Artist: Scott Nurkin, The Mural Shop

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7: Visionary Builders | A tribute to Sanford’s early African American leaders, this mural features W.B. Wicker and Link Boykin. Wicker was a beloved educator who served as the first principal of the South Sanford Graded School. Boykin was a prominent builder and business owner in the 1900s. It serves as a great “welcome to Sanford” visual for those entering downtown on Horner Boulevard from the east.

  • Location: Corner of Wall Street and Horner Blvd in downtown Sanford
  • Sponsors:Knott’s Funeral Home, Downtown Sanford, Lee County Arts Council, Wilson and Reives, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and citizen donations
  • Artist: Scott Nurkin, The Mural Shop

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8: Herb Thomas and the Fabulous Hudson Hornet | Herb Thomas and his Fabulous Hudson Hornet were instrumental in the birth of NASCAR. Thomas was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte in 2012. He’s also the inspiration for the character “Doc” in the Pixar film Cars.

  • Location:133 N. Steele Street in downtown Sanford
  • Sponsor: Central Carolina Enterprise Park
  • Artist: Scott Nurkin, The Mural Shop

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9: Dream | The first of Sanford’s non-historical murals, the DREAM mural is meant to spark the imagination in all who view it. Plus, it has flying pigs.

  • Location: 2412 S. Horner Blvd in Sanford
  • Sponsors: Grant from Rep. John Sauls and the Cameron Shopping Center
  • Artist: Chris Dalton
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