Where I Wander-Among the Whirligigs

I am not good at planning trips. I am not good at looking at a map and saying “this day I am going to be here.”Sometimes I get a little stressed when there are a lot of people and camping might be hard to find. It always works out. I have never not found a place to camp and I have always camped somewhere.

When I left San Diego I knew I was driving to Ohio to help my niece for a few weeks. I have been putting together my trip since my imminent departure from the Columbus area. Where am I going? What is the weather going to be like? When can I dewinterize? (not yet) What new, and interesting things can I find?

I like figuring out where I am going while I am on the way. I am planning on going to northern NJ to visit with my sister. I am waiting for the weather to be a bit nicer, a bit warmer and no more nor'easters. I decided to head south for a few weeks before I move towards New Jersey.

Janet & Joy

I have a high school friend, Joy. In high school we were like sisters. Over the years we have lived on opposite coasts and our friendship has remained good and strong. I wanted to stop at her home in North Beach, MD to visit but she was on her way to North Carolina to visit family for Easter. Well, what was I to do but go pick her up and drive to Raleigh with her for the holiday. And that is what I did.

We had a few days at her home to catch up and then about six hours on the road to continue talking and laughing. Now, I am in NC with her sister, Dee Dee & husband, Ken and I am being treated to a family holiday. It is beyond delightful. I am helping to bake desert for dinner. We all come and go. Often we gather in the kitchen to chat and talk while someone is cooking. It is fun.

The Mayor, Joy, Ken & Dee Dee

I have never been to Raleigh before. Joy's family have been very good tour guides and have taken us to some unique and unusual places in the area. Yesterday we went to Whirligig Park in Wilson, NC. Wilson is a struggling town working to reinvent itself. We get to the park and who gets out of his car to meet us? The mayor. We got a guided tour of the park and learned all about a town that thrived during the height of the tobacco industry. The mayor, C. Bruce Rose, was a delightful and honest and intelligent man. He was honest about the towns struggles and what they are doing to correct things and move on into the future. He even invited us to lunch.

Farm machinery repairman, Vollis Simpson, began making gigantic kinetic sculptures at his family farm. He kept making his “whirligigs”–seven days a week–until about six months before he died at the age of 94. The story of Wilson using the renowned whirligigs to recharge its downtown has catapulted the community into the national spotlight. Grants from ArtPlace America, the Kresge Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts have helped the project come close to its goal of opening the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum.

The Whirligigs were originally in a field approximately 11 miles outside of the town, on the Simpson farm. It quickly became a major tourist attraction in the county. As the Internet became more prominent, more and more people found the field of strange sculptures. Eventually as the artist's health declined, he was unable to handle the upkeep of the whirligigs.

In 2010, a plan was announced to create the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Historic Downtown Wilson. The sculptures were relocated to a downtown warehouse, restored and placed in the park designed for them. By the time the park is complete, 30 whirligigs, will be transported, restored and installed in the park.

What a unique find. It was made even better due the unexpected appearance of the mayor. We spent over an hour at the park taking pictures, talking and exploring. And just as the mayor hoped, we then walked off to explore more of Wilson before returning to Raleigh.

After Easter I will again be wandering my way slowly north. I am not sure what route I will take or where I will end up. I do hope that I will discover more of the unexpected.

 

 

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