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Erwin Elephant Revival returning

This is one of the new elephants scheduled to debut in downtown Erwin on May 2. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

COVID-19 has put a damper on numerous planned events worldwide, and spring events across the region are no different.

The Erwin Outdoor Festival is scheduled to take place in downtown Erwin on May 2, and one of its main attractions is the fourth annual premiere of the Erwin Elephant Revival.

The Erwin Elephant Revival brings sponsored elephant statutes that have been painted by local artists to downtown Erwin. The statues will be on display until they are auctioned in the fall.

The first revival partnered with the Elephant Parade and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee as a way to raise money and awareness of rescued elephants in memory of Mary the elephant. Mary was executed in the Clinchfield Railroad Yard in Erwin on Sept. 13, 1916.

According to Town Of Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice, there will be larger statues in downtown.

“We will have eight total elephants,” Rice said. “This year the statues doubled in size – they went from 30 inches to almost 60 inches.”

Rice acknowledged that there is still an opportunity for businesses or citizens to sponsor an elephant statue.

“We have four elephants that still need to be sponsored,” Rice said.

If you are interested in sponsoring an elephant, please contact Rice by calling Erwin Town Hall.

According to Rice, bidding is scheduled for Oct. 24 at the Gathering Place.

“Starting bids will be $1,500 and charities that benefit from this are Brother’s Keeper, Ronald McDonald House, Unicoi County Imagination Library and Jerusalem Center for Bible Translators and the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald Tennessee,” Rice said.

Rice is hopeful that this year’s herd will help change the perception of Erwin.

“This public art project is now in its fourth year, and originally started as an awareness campaign for the Erwin Elephant Revival and to help change the perception of Erwin’s relationship with Elephants,” Rice said. “We now see elephants all over town. We have seen huge success, with our story being featured in multiple online documentaries. Elizabethton High school students won a podcast award with NPR for telling our Elephant Revival story. We continue on with this movement in hopes that it can also help other nonprofits in the region. So far, over $20,000 has been raised for area charities.”

Rice acknowledges that it takes everyone in the community to pull this project off each year.

“A huge thanks to all our artists who have donated so many hours of their time to bring smiles to our community and to the sponsors who believe in the power of public art and sharing it with others,” Rice said.