A permanent guest is coming Thursday to City Park Stadium — home of the Gainesville Red Elephants’ football, soccer and lacrosse teams.
This guest is also an elephant, but it’s made of marble, weighs 9,986 pounds and stands about 7 feet tall. It will take its place at the home team entrance where players make their traditional “elephant walk.”
The elephant is a gift from Jack Frost, a connoisseur of the arts and owner of Memorial Park Funeral Homes. Frost literally traveled halfway across the globe, twice, to get the marble statue. In his travels to the Far East in search of art, Frost came across the elephant on display in Vietnam. He admired it, but left without making a purchase.
Upon Frost’s return to Gainesville, he described the marble elephant to his operations manager at the the time — the late James “Bimbo” Brewer — and asked him whether it would be something Gainesville High School would like to have as a gift.
Brewer reached out through his daughter, Erin Still, to Gainesville High Principal Tom Smith, who said he’d welcome the gift. Still is co-chairman of the committee working on the school’s 125th anniversary to be commemorated Feb. 26.
“They sent us a picture of (the elephant),” Smith told the Times on Wednesday. “The biggest thing was trying to find a place that it could be displayed. We felt that on campus we already had elephant representation. ... We felt that the elephant walk out there at City Park was an appropriate place to put it to where it represents what a great gift it was. ... It’ll be a great view from Green Street for everybody that passes by to see the grand elephant.”
Again, Frost traveled to the Far East, said Scott Wiley, who stepped into Brewer’s position as vice president of operations at the funeral home. Wiley said Frost found the elephant still for sale in Vietnam and bought it. Wiley said he doesn’t know how much Frost paid for it.
The elephant’s trip to the United States turned into an odyssey when the ship carrying the statue had to find safe port after it came across a super typhoon roaring through the South China Sea around Christmas, Wiley said.
“It had to port for a while,” Wiley said of the ship carrying the elephant. “It finally arrived at the Port of Savannah in mid-January.”
Early Thursday morning a crew will haul the crated statue to Bobby Gruhn Field at City Park Stadium, and with the aid of a crane, lift the 5-ton monument to a sturdy cement base at the home team entrance.