Sometimes a regular old sign outside your business just can’t convey the spirit of what you’re all about. That’s how Owensboro became home to many of its landmarks, like the giant bronze Thinker and the oversized burgoo kettle.
T.D. Deyton, owner of TD’s Tuff Decisions at 2201 Frederica St., said he decided to get the statue of The Thinker about 20 years ago when they wanted something more creative for their signage. At that time, Wetzel’s Grocery store on Frederica had a 40-foot-tall bag of groceries and Deyton drew inspiration from it.
Instead of a grocery bag, Deyton found someone who could make a fiberglass interpretation of the famous Rodin sculpture. The larger-than-life bronze man sits posed on a rock, his chin resting on his hand as Frederica Street traffic rolls by.
“Originally he was going to be white,” Deyton said. “But somehow he ended up bronze and I can’t imagine him different.”
Occasionally, the statue gets accessorized with one of his many necklaces, a pair of shorts or a Santa hat around the holidays.
“People ask me if the city makes me do it,” he said, adding that people are always stopping to take photos with it or including it as part of a scavenger hunt.
Since the statue gets a lot of attention, he said sometimes the shorts they dress him with go missing. “I’m really not sure why anyone wants 84-inch boxer shorts,” Deyton said.
Another landmark is at the giant burgoo kettle outside Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn at 2840 Parrish West Ave.
Originally a parade float built in 1982, the 8-foot tall pot is made from a wooden frame built around a go-cart. After its parade days were over, the float was retired at Moonlite.
“It’s been here as long as I can remember,” said Patrick Bosley, co-owner of Moonlite. “It was a float and they needed a place to park it. It’s been here since.”
Bosley said the kettle is very iconic to Owensboro. “Even if it’s not anything to do with Moonlite, you see the kettle everywhere,” he said.
The kettle was even a landmark on the augmented reality game Pokemon Go.
“I think the go-cart is probably still inside but it doesn’t work as a float anymore,” Bosley said. “We just try to stabilize it and keep it from falling apart.”
It may not have as many miles as a parade float, but the bull sculpture at Windy Hollow Restaurant on Hwy-81 has done some moving over the years.
Evelyn Miller, who runs the restaurant, said the approximately 6-foot-tall bull was the first thing moved to the restaurant’s current location after a fire destroyed the former restaurant in 2006.
The dairy farmer behind the restaurant was one of the first to notice the statue.
“Someone called him and said one of his bulls was out,” Miller said. “So he came down and it’s the concrete bull. He just said ‘welcome to the neighborhood.'”
In the 1970’s and 1980’s Miller’s father, Hal, and uncle, Tom, would buy sculptures made by concrete artist Elmer Cecil, who had many well-known works around town.
“Kids climb on it, adults climb on it,” she said. “The people who climbed on it as kids have grown up.”
One family even brought Miller a poster made of their family photos with the bull, each taken on Easter over the years.
“The bull never changes but the kids get bigger,” she said.
Other landmarks to check out around town are:
Big Gabe – a 12-foot statue of Gabe Fiorella, the man behind Gabe’s Restaurant. It was built in 1966 and spun on a pedestal outside the fine dining establishment. It now resides 1300 Burlew Blvd, outside Burlew Blvd. Mini Storage
Paintbrush – a 23-foot paintbrush is at 712 Kentucky Parkway, representing Paint Headquarters
Dinosaur – a substantial T-Rex sits inside the Consumer Mall at 2930 HWY 144