Could Mount Airy Downtown help with whittling wall?


City officials revealed Thursday the idea of restoring what has been historically known as the Whittling Wall along West Oak Street, may run into a bit of a budget snafu.

The project, which calls for restoring the wall and building a series of statues honoring individuals who have been significant in the history of Mount Airy.

Those statues were to have been of Grammy Grammy-winning country and pop singer Donna Fargo; Ralph Epperson, founder of local radio station WPAQ; old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell; Fred Cockerham, an old-time banjo player and fiddler; and Flip Rees, a longtime retailer in Mount Airy who is credited for much of the success of downtown Mount Airy today.

Two other likenesses will pay tribute to local history in a different way — one will be of a mill worker and the other a whittler reminiscent of the wall’s heritage.

The project is being funded by a $94,340 downtown-revitalization grant the N.C. Department of Commerce awarded to Mount Airy.

City Manager Barbara Jones informed commissioners that if the project runs over budget and can’t be covered by the grant, that might mean eliminating one of the statues.

We would hate to see that happen, and quite frankly we’re not sure which would could be logically removed. Each of the named individuals has played a key role in the development of Mount Airy and making the city known to the world.

As for the two unnamed statues, those are representative of important groups of people. The textile worker stands in for the thousands of individuals who went to work every day in local mills, year after year, to dutifully do their work — supporting their families and helping to build Mount Airy into the city it is today.

The whittler statue — well, if you’re not going to have representation of the whittlers for whom the wall is named, why restore the wall?

We might suggest that perhaps Mount Airy Downtown could play a role here. The group’s director is claiming credit for the Whittling Wall project, so we think it only logical that group take the lead in some private fundraising to complete the project, should the grant not cover the cost.

It seems the main role for Mount Airy Downtown should be administering the extra tax on downtown businesses, seeking grants for downtown development, public relations and overseeing downtown activities, and occasionally raising private funds to assist public projects.

Helping raise private funds for the Whittling Wall would most definitely fall within those guidelines, and offers an opportunity for the organization to stay busy and productive while benefiting a downtown project.

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