Annals of art: statues of the iron prince

Today’s Zippy takes us to Alma AR, where Popeye rules with cans of spinach:

(#1)

This Popeye, who claimed to be the true Popeye and to be carved of wood (all others — especially the one in the cartoons — being mere dissemblers, pretenders, imitators), this grotesque figure, in fact of fibergass over papier-mâché, once stood tall in Alma AR, but has apparently wandered off, to be superseded by a harder, even more massive, Prince Popeye (invigorated by green iron but actually composed of bronze), the new lord of the Ozark Empire of Chenopodia.

Two entries from Roadside America.

First, the earlier “Popeye Statue – 1987 Model (Closed)”:

(#2)

The company town for Popeye Brand Spinach features a Popeye statue on the town’s main street, near a school. Alma, which calls itself “Spinach Capital of the World,” holds a spinach festival every April.

The 8-ft. tall fiberglass-over-paper mache statue was made in 1987 (a 2007 upgraded version of Popeye stands elsewhere in town). He sports a distorted Todd Browning’s Freaks- meets -Hellraiser head. He used to stand outside, sheltered in a wooden alcove, but can lately be found freshly painted and in a gift shop on Fayetteville Avenue (as of Oct. 2014, the gift shop was closed, whereabouts of statue unknown).

And then the later “Popeye Statue – 2007 Model”:

(#3)

Alma, Arkansas feels a deep connection to Popeye the Sailor Man, the comic strip character. Popeye’s ability to suck superhuman strength from a can of spinach made him the obvious mascot for a company that… cans a product labeled “Popeye Spinach.” Alma had also proclaimed itself “Spinach Capital of the World.”

Other towns celebrate Popeye, but Alma has doggedly kept him in the spotlight as a town centerpiece. When their paper mache mutant statue of the Sailor Man began to deteriorate, he was retired (to an inside display) and the town built a new Popeye landmark in 2007. In the center of the former vacant lot-turned public park is a large fountain with a bronze Popeye hoisting his signature can of power veggies. It was unveiled at the town’s annual Spinach Festival.

Background: Popeye. To brush up on your Popeye, see the notes in my 2/1/15 posting “Popeye, Bluto, and Danny Shanahan”, and study the presentation of the cartoon character:

(#4)

Allen’s Popeye Spinach. It’s really all about the Allen brand, which does in fact have a homepage, where we learn this about the company:

(#5)

About Us: When you think spinach, you think Popeye! Only the highest quality, most nutritious and best-tasting spinach is good enough to carry the Popeye name. That’s why every can is committed to making strong bodies and happy tummies. Great in a variety of recipes, Popeye Spinach is always a smart choice when it comes to feeding your family. It’s an easy and affordable way to pack valuable nutrients into mealtime.

That’s all, folks: you can see the varieties offered, but all you get otherwse is just the sales pitch about valuable nutrients, strong bodies, and happy tummies — no actual information about the company, where it is, its history, whatever. However, the Wikipedia page on the little town of Alma knits some of this material together:

Alma is a city in Crawford County, [in northwestern] Arkansas, United States. It is located within the Arkansas River Valley at the edge of the Ozark Mountains … in the Fort Smith metropolitan area. The population was 5,419 at the 2010 Census. The city is located at the intersection of Interstates 40 [not far east of Tulsa OK] and 49.

… Spinach Capital of the World: Around 1987, Alma called itself the “Spinach Capital of the World” because the Allen Canning Company based in Alma canned more than half of all the spinach canned in the U.S., about 60 million pounds (27,000,000 kg) annually. The town has had various statues of the cartoon character Popeye, because of his connection to canned spinach; the most recent one was erected in 2007. Cast in bronze, it sits atop a fountain holding a can of spinach. It is the centerpiece of Popeye Park. Crystal City Texas is also considered the Spinach Capital of the World.

Annual cultural events: The annual Spinach Festival is hosted at the City Park and Community Center on the third weekend in April. First held in 1986, the festival is sponsored by the Alma Chamber of Commerce and the Alma Advertising & Promotion Commission. The festival brings carnival rides, crafts, food and live music. A spinach eating contest takes place at noon, followed by a spinach drop. A package of spinach is dropped from an Alma Fire Department ladder truck onto a board with entrant’s names, with the winner receiving a cash prize.

(A lovely small-town note.)

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