In 2019, The Sanctuary challenged musician, artist, and puppeteer, Jamin Orrall, to build a life-size elephant puppet that The Elephant Sanctuary could utilize for outreach and awareness at The Discovery Center as well as in our community of Hohenwald, Tennessee.
The elephant puppet made a hit appearance at this year's Hohenwald Summerfest, where members of the community were able to interact, take pictures, and enjoy the life-sized artwork as it strolled Main Street, operated by three of The Sanctuary’s staff members! Forty vendors lined the street with face painting, food, arts and crafts vendors, and entertainment by local musicians. The Elephant Discovery Center was also open during the fest and, as always, welcomed many visitors.
“As I was coming into the festival, I got the first sight of the elephant puppet and its very impressive self!” said Anne Zarle, a Sanctuary team member and puppet enthusiast. “There it was, walking right down the middle of Main Street in a slow, majestic gait. I saw intrigue, excitement, and lots of smiles. What a great way to touch our community and bring lots of joy.”
Artist Jamin Orrall is known for his work on larger-than-life puppets at Columbia College in Chicago and at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. He also spent time at Bread and Puppet Theatre in Vermont and traveled with the group performing puppet shows throughout the northeast. The elephant puppet is made of foam and light plastic piping and includes a two-person, over-the-shoulder harness tucked inside, with an additional person in front to navigate the elephants “trunk.” The puppet first made its debut on Main Street in December 2019 at the Hohenwald Christmas Parade.
In addition to the elephant puppet, The Elephant Discovery Center is also home to interactive educational exhibits and eye-catching works of art by regional artists, including a life-size elephant sculpture made of upcycled tires by artist Alex Lockwood and a vibrant mural depicting elephants in their Sanctuary habitat by artist Seth Prestwood (assisted by Callan Downing).