Those colorful concrete catfish have now spread throughout Paris and Henry County to help promote the World’s Biggest Fish Fry in a fun way.
Many countians may be under a false assumption that a local artist created the 15 40-inch-tall statues with some bags of Quikrete over a few weekends and painted them, all for a couple thousand dollars.
But actually this was a huge $19,000 project over the past three years that produced these colorful caricature catfish.
The idea was spearheaded by the Downtown Paris Association, which first dreamed of this project in 2008, when no grant funding was available.
The idea was resurrected in 2016. First a specialized sculpture artist was contracted to create a prototype, then make the catfish mold.
After that, a search led to a company that could make the statues using a special blend of concrete.
Once the 15 catfish were cast and delivered, a group of almost a dozen local artists hand-painted them according to the final destination of each one.
The artists were Dan Knowles, John Monroe, Cat McGavin, Joanna Bailey, Becky Hedges, Joel Crosno, Kaylan Buteyn, Maggie Reynolds, Luke Richardson and Jane Baars.
The $19,000 price tag was funded through a $7,500 grant from the Henry County Tourism Authority and $5,000 from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Three-Star Program.
The final $6,500 came from 13 community businesses and organizations that either made $500 donations or $500 in-kind contributions.
They are (with statue sites listed, if different) the Paris-Henry County Industrial Committee (statue at the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce), City of Paris (city hall), Henry County Medical Center, Paris Board of Public Utilities (downtown plaza), Commercial Bank & Trust Co. (Eiffel Tower Park), Tennessee Valley Community Church (Paris Elementary School), FirstBank, Richardson’s Body Shop, Foundation Bank, The Peddler (Rhea Public Library), Security Bank & Trust Co. (McNeill Park), Kentucky Lake Urologic Associates and Carroll Bank & Trust Co. The last two statues used Tourism Authority grant funds to be located at the courthouse and Paris Landing State Park.
DPA Executive Director Kathy Ray said, in addition to the state grant, many local artists, businesses and individuals pulled together to make these catfish statues possible.
We applaud all the local efforts to add even more charm to our 62-year-old annual extravaganza.
The only question left is which representative catfish statue will enter the April 27 Catfish Races?