Prominent Statues in Laramie – Our Top 5
Whether you know it or not, Laramie is dotted with various statues. They often go unnoticed, hidden beneath tall pines or sandstone buildings. They stand strong and tall, impenetrable to the cold Wyoming weather that so many of us complain about. While we may not notice these permanent fixtures even if we walk past them every day, they each have a story to tell and a reason behind their creation.
Every game day, the horse and rider statute, “Fanning a Twister,” greets fans outside the Area Auditorium. However, few know the history of this iconic Wyoming symbol. Steamboat has long been a symbol for the state of Wyoming. In 1901, the horse Steamboat was born on a ranch between Laramie and Bosler, and he entered Wyoming’s history known as one of the greatest bucking horses ever. Steamboat became a symbol for the University of Wyoming through the athletic department, which made him their logo after their equipment manager snapped a photo of Guy Holt riding Steamboat. While there is debate over whether the current UW logo (as well as the logo on Wyoming license plates) more currently resembles Steamboat or different horse and rider, the symbol behind the image—that of Wyoming being a strong and tough state—remains the same. “Fanning a Twister” was built in 1991 by Peter Fillerup.
In the center of Prexy’s Pasture rests the “Wyoming Family” statue. Made of marble, the statue was installed in 1983 for upcoming Centennial Celebration in 1987. It was created by well-known artist Robert Russin, who was an art professor at the University of Wyoming for almost 40 years. Russin has statues around the world, and he is also the creator of the Lincoln Monument. While the statue dominates the eye, a closer look at the surrounding area reveals another important, but often overlooked, feature. Twenty feet east of the statue is the ASUW time capsule buried beneath a thin layer of concrete. The time capsule is to be opened in UW’s bicentennial year (2086).
A little way west of the “Wyoming Family” statue is the “Ben Franklin” statue. Situated in the shade of large pines and the Arts and Sciences Building, the Ben Franklin statue stands. The University of Wyoming’s “Ben Franklin” statue is only one of four statues in the world that depicts Franklin standing. Rumor has it that Franklin was embarrassed by his short height (five feet nine inches), so he like having his bust sculpted instead of his body. This statue was also created by Robert Russin in 1956. The bronze statue was dedicated in the 250th year of Franklin’s birth.
Driving along Grand Ave between 15th and 17th Street, it is hard to miss the impressive 24-foot bronze statue of Chief Washakie (complete with an 8-foot lance). The statue, now a central feature of the university, was dedicated in 2005. The statue shows Chief Washakie at the Battle of Crowheart Butte, where Washakie risked his life to spare the lives of his warriors. Washakie individually challenged Crow Chief Big Robber in a fight over traditional hunting grounds. His victory ended the feud and battles between the two tribes. Chief Washakie was the last Chief of the Shoshone Tribe, and he is commemorated for his life as a statesman, warrior, and champion of education because he believed education would protect his people in the days to come. He is a very apt person to commemorate at a university. The statue cost $150,000 and was created by Cody native Dave McGary. Chief Washakie’s fame is not contained to Wyoming; another statue of Washakie, also created by McGary, represents Wyoming in the US Capitol.
While it may be easy to call this statue Steamboat, the statue decorating the front lawn of the University of Wyoming Alumni House is actually called “Talk about Your Cowboy.” The statue was commissioned because the University of Wyoming Alumni Association wanted to create a way to welcome new visitors to campus and say farewell to those leaving the university. Dr. Michael Thomas, a Buffalo resident, has spent his career creating bronze statues that embody the ideal of the American West. “Talk about your Cowboy” gives a “hats off salute to current students, campus visitors, and alumni.” The statue was installed during the homecoming festivities of 2008, and has become a feature during televised sporting events.