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Who made the Rabbittown rabbit?
Styrofoam sculptor Denny Walley is creator of all things big and entertaining
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Denny Walley stands next to his creation, the Rabbittown rabbit, located in the parking lot of the Rabbittown Cafe in East Hall. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

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Honorary Rabbittown mayor Marshall Kinsey talks about the origin of the area's name.

RABBITTOWN — Driving down Old Cornelia Highway in Rabbittown seems normal enough.

It’s a little more sparse and rural than other areas of Hall County, but it does have the average gas stations, a liquor store and some restaurants.

Then you spot the 20-foot-tall rabbit, waving to all those who enter Rabbittown.

"When I first moved out from New York it was the first project I did here," said sculptor and carving expert Denny Walley, who created the Rabbittown monument. "They said they wanted some sort of monument, so Jim (Reid) called me. I got a call and he said ‘Do you think you can do this rabbit thing for us?’ and I said sure.’"

Reid, a close friend of Walley’s from previous projects, is the owner of Shape Formation in Lula. The company is contracted to create specialized architectural moldings, columns and signs for movies, commercials and residences.

The two met while they worked on "The Real McCoy" in 1993, a movie featuring stars Kim Basinger and Val Kilmer.

So, Walley, who lives in Atlanta, was eager to help Reid when the opportunity arose.

The idea of the rabbit monument came from Rabbittown’s honorary mayor Marshall Kinsey, 87.

"We got together and decided to have one put up, so we got it put up," he said.

The rabbit, in the parking lot of the Rabittown Cafe, was erected on April 10, 1993. Honorary Rabbittown councilmen Hoyt (Buddy) Henry Jr. and Tony Peck also were part of the planning of the rabbit.

"There are a lot of people that come by from everywhere, you know and stop and look at the rabbit and ask about it," said Kinsey.

In the early 20th Century, when the New Holland Mill was still fully functioning, there was a heavy demand for rabbits in what later came to be called Rabbittown.

"Rabbittown actually got it’s name from Mr. (David) Highsmith," Kinsey said. "He used to raise rabbits and they would come from New Holland over there and buy the rabbits."

Kinsey said the rabbits were mostly used for a home-cooked dinner at that time.

"People used to be poor; they’d eat rabbit," he said. "I’d eat it now if I could get me one or two.

"Rabbittown was just a place where all of us just about knowed each other, we all got along and everything."

Kinsey added that in the 1920s, Rabbittown had a population of about 20 or 30.

"Oh Lord, it has changed a whole lot," Kinsey said. "I remember when Ga. 23 was a dirt road that came up behind the house and old horse and buggys and new wagons."

This year will be the 15th anniversary of the rabbit, and it appears to be in great shape, according to Walley.

"It’s made out of Styrofoam, so it has a Styrofoam base," he said.

Reid explained that synthetic stucco is applied over the Styrofoam to preserve it.

"It’s actually the same thing that is on the outside of buildings," he said. "It’s all Styrofoam but with a thin 1/16 inch coating of fiberglass mesh. We haven’t touched it since it was made."

Walley currently works as an acoustical director and project analyst for Scenario Custom Scenery in Atlanta, creating other large objects and props for films, television, commercials and businesses.

"This is nothing. I’m working on a flying saucer now for Coca-Cola," he said. "Some of it is made out of fiberglass. I just did ... an igloo for a yogurt commercial; I made a 22-foot dinosaur for Six Flags-Colonial Williamsburg. I’ve made the wackiest things."

Walley has enjoyed a career full of creating interesting objects, all for the purpose of entertainment. He worked for "Saturday Night Live" and created the puppet Toonces the Driving Cat.

"I worked for them for four years and before that I was in California," he said. "I did sets and break-away pieces ... all the break-away furniture, wacky stuff, props."

Although, Walley’s true love is in the rock ‘n’ roll world.

The slide guitarist and vocalist spent much of his life touring with rockers Frank Zappa, Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Currently Walley plays with a Scandinavian rock band.

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