By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The men are on the move.
The steel Walking Man Project statues are now “walking” up and down Meridian Street in downtown Anderson in preparation for Saturday’s Walking Manifestival, an event to bid farewell to many of the statues and celebrate everything the project has done, artist and project executive director Levi Rinker said.
The festival will feature entertainment for everyone including children’s games and activities, craft and food vendors, community organizations and 23 bands from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Gazebo Stage will be at Citizens Park Plaza and feature small and acoustic bands. That area will be filled with several nonprofit organizations, art education games, carnival games, a bounce castle, face painting and other kids activities.
A little farther down Meridian — in the post office parking lot — is the city of Anderson stage that will feature other bands. There will be food vendors and games there. That area is near what Rinker is calling “motorhead road” with a block filled with motorcycles painted by local artists and from nonprofit group Second Chance to Get it Right, a race car from Mike’s Racing that people can get inside and an antique truck from Allred’s Collision Center.
The next block is the “artist’s block” where there are booths for each of the artists who designed the statues. The artists will be on hand displaying and selling their work and to answer questions or talk about their statues.
There will be two different spots where groups will be doing fitness activities as well.
The Town Center stage is the main stage area and will feature the big band acts. There will be more food vendors there as well.
Rinker said they are asking attendees to enter the festival at either the Ninth or 13th streets intersections with Meridian as there will be people surveying community members about the Walking Man Project to get feedback for future projects.
The Walking Man statues from across the community have been brought downtown and will be lining Meridian. Each statue will have a clipboard where people — after registering — can bid to purchase the statue in a silent auction that ends at 6 p.m. The reserve bid on each statue — $2,000 — must be met for the statue to be sold.
A third of the profits will go to The Walking Man Project for administrative costs like gasoline to transport the statues, printing costs for the maps and other items; a third to future Walking Man initiatives like an upcoming Walking Man 5K run at Shadyside Park and a third to the charity that the sponsoring business chose.
“I’ve already gotten ‘We miss you’ letters from sponsors about the statues,” Rinker joked. “Some businesses that had planned to auction their statue have already called to say they want to purchase it permanently. They want to keep them because they’ve fallen in love with it.”
Blair Lynch, director of operations at Mermaid Pool and Spas, said the feedback and response they got was much better than anticipated and they decided they didn’t want to give “Smiling Sam” — wearing a 1920s-style bathing suit and big grin — back.
“The project stood for moving forward, but we don’t want people to forget the past — hanging out in the backyard with family and friends enjoying their time together,” he said. “That’s a good fit for us, represents what we are about. We didn’t want to see him go someplace else.”
Staff from Mermaid will be at the festival, like representatives from most of the sponsoring businesses, selling Walking Man tacos with 16-hour slow-cooked pulled pork. Proceeds will go toward their charity of choice — Splash for Cystic Fibrosis.
Rinker said the response from the community has been amazing and he’s hoping that response continues Saturday.
“Now is the time to come together, unite and say, ‘We support not only our local artists who tried to change things in our community but we are also here to change things and celebrate the pride of moving forward with our city,’” he said.
Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.