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Pandemic disruption blamed for absence of downtown pachyderms

Iris, inspired by Tennessee’s state flower, is painted with a floral theme. Iris and her kin will not roam Erwin streets this summer thanks to a supply chain disruption caused by the ongoing pandemic.

By Richard Rourk

Frequent downtown visitors to Erwin may have noticed that there’s something missing this summer.

Alas, it seems that COVID-19 is still a downer when it comes to some traditions, including the annual parading of elephants through downtown Erwin.

As a result of the pandemic, the whimsical and much beloved elephant statues will not be returning to downtown Erwin this summer. 

“Unfortunately, we will not have elephants in Erwin this year,” said Town of Erwin Communication Specialist Jamie Rice. “This year our supplier has had significant delays due to Covid.”

In past years, the Erwin Elephant Revival brings sponsored elephant statutes that have been painted by local artists to downtown Erwin. The statues are left on display all summer until they are auctioned off in October with proceeds being  given to the sponsor’s choice of charity as well as the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. 

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 for killing one of her keepers in Kingsport during a circus stop. Her execution was carried out in the Clinchfield Railroad Yard in Erwin on Sept. 13, 1916.

Rice said that she hopes to have some sort of art displayed  in downtown Erwin later this year. 

“I’m hoping to have a public art project ready to install before the Apple Festival,” she said. She said that she would like to offer some sort of art that honors Blue Ridge Pottery, but cautioned that nothing is set in stone at this point.

In the meantime, fans of the vibrant pachyderms will have to dream of future days, although Rice promises that she is already working to bring the elephants back to Erwin next year.

“We hope to have elephants here in 2022,” Rice said.

Keeping in mind that elephants never forget, fans can look forward to a future summer when painted pachyderms once again roam Erwin streets.