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A penny for visitors to Popeye's hometown

  • City employees Gary Rust and Todd Yankey deliver a Penny Souvenir machine to the Chester Welcome Center.

    City employees Gary Rust and Todd Yankey deliver a Penny Souvenir machine to the Chester Welcome Center.
    Courtesy of Brenda Owen

  • Visitors to the Chester Welcome Center can now buy a souvenir penny stamped with one of four Popeye characters.

    Visitors to the Chester Welcome Center can now buy a souvenir penny stamped with one of four Popeye characters.
    Courtesy of Brenda Owen

 
By Don Berry
Contributing Writer
updated: 11/17/2021 9:22 AM

Visitors to Chester can now take home a shiny new souvenir: a penny stamped with one of four Popeye characters.

A Souvenir Penny Press machine recently arrived at the Chester Welcome Center, located to the south of the Chester Bridge landing to greet travelers coming into Illinois.

The machine was the idea of the Chester Beautification Commission and approved by the city council. City employees Gary Rust, Todd Yankey, and Dean Renner delivered and installed the machine, and Bob Owen secured it to the wall.

According to Beautification/Tourism Commission Chair Brenda Owen, here's how it works: Visitors insert 51 cents into the machine and crank the handle to receive a pressed souvenir penny. There are four images available -- Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, and Brutus.

Owen says the machine has been a big hit with visitors to the center, also home to a large bronze statue of Popeye. Erected in 1977, the statue has a QR code on it telling about Popeye and his creator, Chester's own Elzie Segar.

The Welcome Center is staffed during the day by local volunteers who offer information about Chester and the surrounding area.