Opinion: Celebrate Legends of the Grand Valley’s newest sculpture Friday | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: Celebrate Legends of the Grand Valley’s newest sculpture Friday

Ken Johnson
Free Press Opinion Columnist

The annual Legends sculpture unveiling and party is upon us: Friday, Sept. 26, at 5:30 p.m. It will be located at Seventh and Main, directly across Seventh Street from the recently updated Avalon Theatre. The party follows in the Avalon.

Everyone is invited to the event. The sculpture features Chet and Vernie Enstrom, mixing up a batch of Chet’s “World Famous Almond Toffee.” It was sponsored by the Legends of the Grand Valley Committee and created by portrait sculptor Karen Jobe Templeton.

All folks attending the unveiling will get a surprise “thank you” gift from Legends, too. You can also thank Ann Enstrom Scott, Chet and Vernie’s daughter, for it personally, since she will be at the unveiling.

I’ve been part of the Legends project since it started 10 years ago, first with the reprinting of Dalton Trumbo’s infamous book that scandalized Grand Junction/Shale City, and then the larger-than-life bronze of Trumbo. You know, the guy in the bathtub in front of the Avalon.

That started the annual sculptures that have become a “Walking Tour of History” in the downtown, each one telling the story of one of our long-gone local leaders, the ones who built the foundation for the place we call home today. Other Legends sculptures include Walter Walker, William Moyer, Sister Mary Balbina Farrell, John Otto, the founders of Operation Foresight; Dale Hollingsworth, Joe Lacy and Leland Schmidt, and the four Prinster brothers who founded City Market — Clarence, Frank, Leo and Paul.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Legends became an addition of our hugely admired Art on the Corner program as well.

I’ve looked at a lot of art in a lot of towns and haven’t found, until now, any program that is quite as unique as Legends.

Denver for example has a wonderful public art program. But nowhere a program like Legends with a story bronze a year, except maybe in Flint, Mich. It’s still a big town, despite hard times. General Motors alone had 30,000 workers at its Buick plant at one time. Lots of automobiles were developed and built there.

A friend, Dr. Ken Harwood, recently handed me a New York Times story about Flint. A decade ago, when things were really tough, it seems a retiree named Al Hatch started “Back to the Bricks,” an antique cars gathering on the brick-paved main street. It is still a huge success. He then wanted to do more to burnish Flint’s auto history, so he suggested statues of the old auto legends on the downtown corners. It went nowhere, until about 2010 he mentioned it to Joe Rundell, age 71, retired for over 20 years and expert in engraving artwork on guns.

His first three works include David Buick, who created that car line; Louis Chevrolet, who was an auto racer before pioneering what was to be GM’s bread-and-butter line; and William C. Durant, who made Buick and Chevrolet famous. Oh, and he created GM.

In three years Rundell put those three sculptures on downtown corners, plus Charles W. Nash and Walter P. Chrysler were installed at Flint’s international airport. Gasp! Three years?

His sculptures are paid for by donations and sale of memorial bricks. Each costs about the same as our larger than life Legends bronzes. Flint has a wonderful gift, just like Grand Junction.

See you at our Enstrom Candies installation!

GJ Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.

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