Cheerleaders waived pompons. Businessmen — some alumni or former coaches of the high school — gathered in groups near the new Wampus Cat statue covered with a blue tarp. High school students and teachers gathered on the sidewalks, their phones in their pockets for once.
On a drizzly and cold Tuesday afternoon, about 300 people gathered outside the high school auditorium to watch the unveiling of the statue that stands in the center of the circular driveway.
The statue, specially made for the Conway school district by artist Raymond Gibby, cost $35,000, which was paid for by Centennial Bank. The quality of the statue makes the school campus more beautiful, superintendent Greg Murry said.
Murry and others gave speeches about Wampus Cats, the statue and the people who made the statue possible. The band played the alma mater and everyone sang just before longtime Wampus Cat fan Blake Browning Jr. unveiled the statue to loud applause. People smiled and hugged. Camera flashes went off.
“If you’ve ever been a lifelong fan of anything and gotten to do something like that (unveiling),” Browning said, pausing. He hadn’t known he would get to unveil the statue until his name was called. He stood with the bronze Wampus Cat towering over him and said, “It’s a shock.”
Students waited for the crowd to disperse before snapping their own photos of the six-legged statue with cell phones. Some people posed in front of the statue, all smiles. Cars drove slowly around the driveway with passengers ogling the open-mouthed cat.
People stood in groups under umbrellas or hunched in jackets and talked about the statue. The statue inspires school spirit and qualities of honor, students and a school official said.
Dressed in her school Dance Team outfit, 10th grader Jessica Vangsnes, 15, stood near the statue, which took much of 2012 to make and finally get installed at the high school.
“It’s very important. I think that’s why so many people showed up — we all care about the Wampus Cats,” Vangsnes said. “We all want to see good things happen to us.”