Pictured is one of the elephant statues that will be up for auction beginning Oct. 28. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

It’s time to say goodbye to the elephant herd that has called downtown Erwin home this year.

“We will be holding a silent auction at Erwin Town Hall from Oct. 28 through Nov. 1 during business hours,” Town of Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice said. “The minimum bid is $150 with increments of $10 or greater.”

This year’s herd was different than the herds that have been auctioned off in the past. These elephants are smaller in size this year and that has presented an issue for the town.

“This year we will have 17 of 20 original elephants available for auction,” Rice said. “We started with 20, but two were stolen and one was vandalized.”

Rice first informed The Erwin Record of the stolen elephant statues back in August and said these thefts “hurt” because the elephants were painted by community volunteers who dedicated hours of their time working on the pieces to be enjoyed by the community as a whole.

The elephants are not the only thing different this year.

“This is our first silent auction and will last an entire week,” Rice said. “Normally we have a live auctioneer in the Gathering Place for a high energy morning auction.”

Rice is excited about this year’s auction.

“We are hoping this silent auction will be a more relaxed environment and more people will participate and since the elephants are much smaller this year, and made of concrete and a fraction of the cost of the previous years, the bids are starting at only $150 versus $1,500 last year,” Rice said. “Again, we are hoping this will be a great year for more people to get an Erwin elephant.”

Like previous years, this year’s proceeds will go to work for a familiar charity.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds from this auction will benefit the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee,” Rice said. “Next year, the sponsored elephants proceeds will benefit the sponsors’ choice of charity. Seventy-five percent will go to the sponsors’ choice, the remaining will be divided by RISE and Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald.”

According to Rice, this year’s Elephant Revival herd brought lots of changes and curveballs. “Due to the flooding in the midwest this winter, delivery was delayed of our large fiberglass statues, and while we were working on the logistics of this issue, the Town of Erwin found out that we were going to be featured in a National Radio broadcast of NPR,” Rice said. “We knew that we absolutely had to have elephants on display in our downtown this summer, no matter what it took, and fortunately, a small business in Hampton came through for us and made 20 concrete statues in a matter of about two and a half weeks. All our amazing volunteer artists were on standby during that time. Once they received their statues, most created their design in a matter of a seven to 10 days. It was really an amazing feat by everyone involved.”

For Rice, the community coming together makes the yearly event worthwhile.

“The town is so thankful that we have such passionate and helpful citizens who believe in this public art project and helped to make it a reality this year and every year,” Rice said.

Rice acknowledged that the Elephant Revival has brought so much positive attention to Erwin. “Because of the Erwin Elephant Revival and this public art project, we have had five different documentary crews here since May recognizing our efforts,” Rice said. “One crew came all the way from Los Angeles and stayed almost a week filming our sweet town.”

The Town of Erwin and RISE Erwin have already started making preparations for next year’s herd.

“The new herd will be ready and on display for the Great Outdoors Festival on May 2,” Rice said. “We have eight total ordered, and they have grown in size. These elephants stand at almost 5 feet tall, versus the 30 inches in the previous years.”

According to Rice, the artists have been notified and are ready to start work on the new herd. “Most of our artists already have them in their possession and are working on them all winter,” Rice said. “All of the new elephants will be sold at a live auction in October of 2020.”

If you are interested in bidding for this year’s herd, the silent auction will be at Erwin Town Hall, Oct. 28 through Nov. 1, during business hours. The last time to bid is Friday, Nov. 1, at 4 p.m. Winners will be notified on Monday, Nov. 4. Due to the heavy nature of the statue, shipping is not recommended. Local pickup only.

The minimum bid is $150 with increments of $10 or greater. There will be a table in the Erwin Town Hall lobby with pictures of each elephant and a bid form for bidders to fill out. Bidders must leave contact information and also their highest bid.

“This is a very easy and stress-free auction,” Rice said.

For more information, please follow the Town of Erwin and RISE Erwin on Facebook.