Most people around these parts recognize the name Eric C. Conn. “Go big or go home,” seems to be the theme of many of his projects and marketing campaigns.
Yesterday many Eastern Kentuckians watched as he unveiled is latest display — the statue of a man whose name also holds recognition around these parts, Abraham Lincoln.
“I like statues, and I can’t imagine somebody better to get a statue of than our own favorite son, Abe Lincoln,” Conn said. “That’s the reason I decided to do it, and I also thought it would be fun.”
And many present agreed it was certainly an anticipated moment of fun.
Accompanied by a drum roll, Judge Darrell H. Mullins pulled a string, unveiling the “second largest seated Lincoln statue in the world,” just after the Abraham Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Residing beside the Eric C. Conn Law Firm on U.S. 23 in Stanville, the statue stands at nearly 19 feet tall and weighs over a ton. Because of its size, the statue was delivered in three sections and placed on the ground by a crane.
Conn said this project had been underway for about a year. An artist from the United States designed the sculpture, and most of the crafting was completed in Thailand.
Conn said as cars travel along the highway and pass by the statue, he hopes the travelers remember that Abraham Lincoln was from Kentucky.
“I would hope that they would just remember that Abe was a Kentuckian from the Bluegrass State,” he said. “And if they remember (the firm’s) location, that’s not so bad either.”
Many wondered what the cost for such a gargantuan figure would be. Conn said when all is said an done, he will end up paying about $400,000 out of pocket.
He said by the time he realized the hefty price, he was already halfway into the project and committed to seeing it through.
The price aside, Conn said Abraham Lincoln is someone people can idolize in that he was human, but also had super human qualities in the sense of compassion and reason.
“I think he was a great Kentuckian, and more important than even a great Kentuckian, he was a great American, and I think that’s noteworthy,” Conn said.
Interested Kentuckians, representatives from East Kentucky Broadcasting and even students from Betsy Layne Elementary School showed up for the event. Teachers said this day was an educational opportunity for students.
“We thought it was very important historically,” said 5th grade teacher Greg Jones. “We’re testing on it, so this is really important for the CATS scores.”
Jones said this statue is evidence that Eastern Kentucky values its history, and even more importantly, a representation of the qualities of honesty and respect — what Abe stands for and what Kentuckians can aspire to possess.
The students were just as impressed by this ceremony as the adults were, rattling off Lincoln facts effortlessly.
“He was the 16th president, and he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in a theater,” said Jacob Spurlock, a 5th grade student from Betsy Layne .
Some people came to the ceremony solely for entertainment. A few employees of the law firm dressed as caterers in red ties and vests and came around with snack trays to serve audience members.
“This is a big thing. Abraham Lincoln — he’s a big deal here,” said Coal Run Village Resident Theresa Baisden.
Baisden brought her mother who was visiting from North Carolina. She said her mother had been sick and the unveiling ceremony was entertaining enough to get her mind off of her troubles.
Many who attended, agreed the monument will now be a landmark and maybe even a tourist attraction in Eastern Kentucky.
“They probably will stop by and take pictures,” Penny Campbell said of future passers-by.
Campbell, who is a medical record keeper for Conn’s law firm, said this statue came as no surprise to those who work with Conn.
“He’s always liked statues,” she said. “Anybody that knows Eric knows that. But I think also he’s very political, and Abe Lincoln was the first and only president from Kentucky.”
Campbell pointed out that “they always say ‘honest Abe,’” saying also that Abraham Lincoln was someone who stood up for people. She said this is representative of the work at the law firm.
In his speech, Mullins said he didn’t know what the country would be like today had it not been for Abraham Lincoln’s presidential efforts during the Civil War.
After the drum roll and unveiling of what will be a Lincoln landmark, Conn said simply, “Welcome home, Abe.”