"Critter" sculptures at Uncle Remus Museum

Extreme Sculpting’s Chris Lantz, artist and “critter” creator of five favorite characters based on local author Joel Chandler Harris’ tales of Uncle Remus, and Courtney Lantz, stand beside the life size Br’er Coon as visitors tour the grounds of the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton May 19.

By Shannon Sneed / Staff

Shannon@msgr.com

Visitors to the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton will be greeted by some larger-than-life familiar characters from the folktales made famous by local author Joel Chandler Harris.

Five “critter” sculptures created by artist Chris Lantz, of Extreme Sculpting, were unveiled May 19, 2017 at a ceremony attended by local historians, community leaders, residents and visitors.

Carved using a chainsaw and made from 300-year-old cypress wood hand-selected from a mill in Jacksonville, Fla., the “critters” include Br’er Rabbit; his nemesis, Br’er Fox; Mr. Terrapin; Br’er Coon; and a huge Br’er Bear, sometimes referred to as Jedge Bear.   

Noting the difficulties in finding a lumber that would withstand the elements to use for the project, “the carver,” as Lantz introduced himself, said, “We prayed to God to be able to find this wood.”

The Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce announced in July of 2016 it had been awarded $3,042.50 by the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism division to fund half the creation and installation of the “critter” sculptures with EPCOC matching those funds to finish the project.

According to a press release from EPCOC Tourism Coordinator Kaitlyn Parham, Georgia Tourism offers the inaugural grant to communities who participate in the department’s Tourism Product Development Resource Team program which works to evaluate a community’s potential for tourism growth and development through innovative, unique experiences based on a community’s local culture and heritage.

Among the about 40 guests who attended the event, including Eatonton Mayor Walt Rocker Jr., Councilmember Teresa Doster and former Putnam County Commissioner Billy Webster, Parham welcomed guests to the event and invited Rebekah Snider, from the Georgia department of Economic Development, to speak about the grant program.

Snider was followed by local Historical Society President Jimmy Marshall, who expressed his thanks on behalf of the Uncle Remus Museum, and Lantz, who explained how the “critters” were made.

After the carvings were unveiled, guests were offered refreshments provided by the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce and got the opportunity to walk around to each of the carvings to get their pictures made. Georgia Benjamin-Smith regaled visitors with some storytellin’s after a tour through the long-time popular museum, which included all joining to sing a rendition of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

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