By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
When the Daniel Boone Festival rolls into Barbourville this October, visitors will get to see Kentucky’s most famous frontiersman. He’ll be waiting for them in front of the Knox County Courthouse.
And, he’s there now.
The long-awaited, life-size bronze statue of Daniel Boone was unveiled Friday morning during a ceremony at the courthouse square in downtown Barbourville. Those at the event said the handsome statue was the work of many people over many years, and would be a signature sight for the festival, the city and county.
“This was a monumental undertaking for such a small group,” said Ron Bowling, this year’s Daniel Boone Festival President, in his opening remarks.
Bowling also thanked the members of the festival, both active and lifetime, as well as the committee who worked on making the Boone statue a reality.
Done by Louisville artist Raymond Graf, the bronze statue weighs 450 pounds. It stands on a 3-by-3, four-sided cone shaped piece of granite that weights 3,800 pounds. And according to Bowling, the granite wasn’t an easy piece to cut.
“They cut that rock three times to get a pure piece. On the fourth time, it was smooth and perfect,” he noted.
On the front of the granite, Boone’s name and the year of his birth and death are listed, along with a quote from the explorer.
“I can’t say as ever I was lost. But I was bewildered once for three days.”
“We always liked that quote. It was his most famous one. That’s why we used it,” Bowling said.
The statue project has been discussed and in progress for a quarter of a century. Twenty years later, the festival had the $65,000 to have the statue finished and mounted.
Bowling said it’s all paid for.
“We saved the money every year to be able to get it done for today.”
And that it’s completed, well before the 65th Annual Daniel Boone Festival begins.
“I am so relieved today that this day has come,” Statue Committee Chairman Steve Valentine told the audience.
Many at the unveiling marveled at the intricate detail done by Graf on the statue, which shows Boone, rifle in hand and looking forward, ready to blaze the trail.
One person said it also portrays Boone in his real element, free from the coonskin cap that was Hollywood’s image of the explorer.
On this Daniel Boone, a fedora sits on his head.
“The statue research by the committee went all the way down to his hat and moccasins. Everybody wanted to see Daniel the real way he is,” said Pat Hauser, a former committee member and former Barbourville mayor.
“You think about Daniel Boone, you think about Kentucky, and you think about the state’s slogan, ‘Unbridled Spirit.’ The spirit of the people of Barbourville, Knox County and southeastern Kentucky. That statue personifies that spirit,” said State Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), who represents Barbourville and Knox County.
“When these kids grow up, I want them to remember the Daniel Boone Festival… The committee is the backbone of the Daniel Boone Festival. And every time you see a committee member, thank them for the statue,” added Knox County Judge-Executive J.M. Hall.
It took three volleys from the Black Powder Shooters to unleash the statue. On the third volley, the wraps came down, and with that, a bold, bronze and unbridled symbol of Kentucky’s pioneer spirit came up for view.
The master of ceremonies for the program, Barbourville Independent School Superintendent Larry Warren, said it was fitting for the day. And for the festival that bears the explorer’s name.
“It’s been a splendid morning with over 250 people here. Daniel Boone and his descendants are very happy,” Warren pointed out.