Have you noticed something “fishy” around Lake Gaston? That’s right, there are two colorful, brightly painted 72-inch rockfish statues on the lake. The first is located at the information kiosk at the Food Lion Shopping Center on River Road at Elam Road, and the second is in front of Story Properties’ real estate office at 1876 Eaton Ferry Road.
These are just two of at least 51 rockfish statues that have been installed throughout the Roanoke Valley, with the help of local businesses, by the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Called “The Roanoke Valley Rocks” this public relations/public art campaign is designed to “uplift and inspire the Roanoke Valley,” says the website, found at visithalifax.com/the-roanoke-valley-rocks.
The Lake Gaston
The multi-colored rockfish at Food Lion has a map of Lake Gaston with the five North Carolina and Virginia counties found on the lake. It was painted by Autumn Wenger, owner of ACW Ply Designs, an interior design and décor business serving the Roanoke Rapids and Lake Gaston area. Wenger painted the rockfish in the summer of 2014, and said: “The design evolved while working closely with Kathy Dikeman, president of O’Sail, and the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce, on it. The fish was going to be put at a central location at the information kiosk, so we wanted it to represent all the areas around Lake Gaston.”
ACW Ply Designs recently opened a new studio location at 1383 N.C. Hwy 903, Littleton, across from Eaton’s Ferry Estates.
Explaining the name of her company, Wenger said she is the “Always Creative Woman” behind ACW Ply Designs. In addition, “Plywood is a very useful material and often inspiration in my work, so ‘Ply’ represents the many layers to my creativity and expression,” she said.
Wenger has worked in the design industry since 2006, but has been “drawn to all things ‘artsy’” for as far back as she can remember.
The Story Properties rockfish
The rockfish at Story Properties has been there since 2014, when the recently-closed South Shore Realty was there. The rockfish, painted two shades of blue with a sailboat, lake, and shrubs and trees in the background, was designed and painted by artist Jim Ferrier. A Lake Gaston resident, Ferrier used South Shore’s logo as inspiration.
The fish is named Carpe Diem, which, translated from Latin, means “seize the day.” Can anyone imagine a better place to seize the day than on Lake Gaston?
Why a rockfish?
“The rockfish was chosen as our campaign mascot to pay homage to one of the world’s premier sport fish that chooses to return home to the Roanoke Valley each spring,” says the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau website. “Our intent was for the rockfish to have a display life of at least three years, beginning in June 2011, but we envision these inspirational creatures could remain up indefinitely.”
In addition to the two at Lake Gaston, so far, I’ve seen nine in and around Littleton, Weldon, Halifax, Scotland Neck and Roanoke Rapids. I haven’t really been looking hard though—I simply take photos of the ones I discover while out and about exploring or running errands.
My finds include the “musical and theatrical” rockfish at Lakeland Cultural Arts Center in Littleton; First Media Radio’s fun “radio” rockfish, and a realistic rockfish at River Falls Park in Weldon; Sylvan Heights Bird Park’s “peacock” rockfish in Scotland Neck; Davis Body Shop’s “racing look” rockfish, named Gene, in Halifax; and several in Roanoke Rapids including the “furry friend” at Creekside Animal Hospital, Dominion Power’s “safety conscious” rockfish, Halifax County Arts Council’s “Arts are Alive” rockfish at the library, the “authentic” rockfish at the Roanoke Canal Museum, and New Dixie Mart’s “nautical and flowery” rockfish (located on Highway 158).
My favorite find so far is the one at Davis Body Shop because of all the attention to detail and considerable thought that went into creating it. According to the convention center website, its name “pays homage to Gene Davis, who established Davis Body Shop in 1966. Gene the fish was designed and created by Tammy Jean of Creative Designs and Gifts, daughter of Gene Davis, with the help of Debra Shearin, who owns Mere Designs with her daughter, Heather.
Jean and Sheain wanted to give the fish that “get your motor running” racing look. To do so, they gave the fish scales of individually cut and glued squares of black and white aluminum, courtesy of Mike’s Quality Home Improvement.”
The site goes on to say: “However, they also wanted to add a little color and some pizzazz in honor of Tammy and Mike Davis’s mother Ruby. They took the time to create a mask, fins and a tail completely covered in gems. The back of the fish, which can be seen reflected in the windows of Davis Body Shop, is painted in zebra stripes. This fish, which took Tammy and Debra three days working 8 to 5 to create, is truly a one-of-a-kind work of art!” I totally agree!
The website also says these fish are located in front of most businesses, but some are inside.
“Once you have seen them all, stop by the Halifax County Visitor Center, located at 260 Premier Blvd. in Roanoke Rapids and pick up your free tee shirt!” it states.
So, quit “floundering” around, sitting on your “bass.” Start driving around to see how many rockfish statues you can find in the area. They aren’t out there just for the “halibut!” Have you “lobster” motivation? (OK, that’s enough of the fish puns.)