It took more than two tons of steel to make the massive eagle that will be shipped south of the border later this month to adorn a new rollercoaster at Dollywood, a theme park in Pigeon Gorge, Tennessee, owned by country music star Dolly Parton.
Metal sculptor Kevin Stone of Metal Animation Studio Inc. in Chilliwack, B.C., was commissioned by Dollywood to build the giant $250,000 bald eagle, which stands about two stories high and has a wing span of 14.6 metres.
Poised as though swooping down on its prey, the eagle’s head, tail, and talons are made of shiny stainless steel while the body and wings are rusted to give the effect of a bald eagle’s brown plumage.
“I also do car restoration and stuff, so rust is my enemy, and so to actually just leave it and let it rust and to even to water it down and accelerate the rusting effect to give it that brown colour has been something new for me,” Stone says.
The work, which Dollywood is billing as the largest eagle sculpture in the world, is the third in a series of eagles Stone has made and is a good fit for Dollywood’s rustic ambience.
“They wanted to make sure that their eagle was the world’s largest eagle and I let them know that I had one here for sale, but they didn’t want a stainless or a shiny metal finish on theirs,” he says.
Stone says it normally takes him a year to complete a piece this size, but he’s had just six months to get the Dollywood eagle done. The bird, which includes the individual creation and welding of thousands of feathers, is engineered to withstand 170 km winds.
The eagle will be erected over the entrance to the park’s new $20 million Wild Eagle steel wing rollercoaster, which rises 21 stories high and is the first of its kind in the U.S., according to the Dollywood website.
In a press release, Dollywood’s construction director Brian Dudash said Stone’s “rugged and natural” sculpture will “stand as a sentinel to beckon would-be riders to Wild Eagle [and] also celebrate our Smoky Mountains heritage.”
As well as over 40 rides, the 150-acre adventure park’s features include a steam engine train, a wooden rollercoaster, blacksmithing exhibitions and local crafters, live music ranging from to country to bluegrass to gospel, and a 35-acre water park called Splash Country.
Stone has also crafted a 6-metre gargoyle which has already been sold, and a 10-metre mirror-polished stainless steel Chinese water dragon called Pan Long which is currently on display at one of B.C.’s largest casinos.
“They’re leasing it off me and trying to help me sell it,” he says, adding that the exposure resulting from the Dollywood piece should bring more business his way.
“There’s people that travel to Dollywood from all over the world, and also my dragon will be displayed at one of the largest, if not the largest casino in Vancouver, so that gets a lot of international clientele as well. So between the two venues I’m hoping that it will really start getting my name out there this year.”
Stone says that as far as he knows, he is the only artist in the world doing hand-fabricated large-scale metal works.
“They do large-scale sculpture out of China, but it’s a total different process, it’s not hand-fabricated and hand-thought-out like I do. They design their stuff on computers and have teams in the tens of people.”
The eagle will be shipped in pieces by flatbed truck to Tennessee around Feb. 20. Stone will fly there to oversee the installation and expects he will be invited to the opening of the new rollercoaster in March, where he hopes he will get to meet Parton.
“I’m a huge fan. My family just loves her and I grew up watching her shows in the early ’70s and I’ve seen most of the early works that she used to do,” he says.