The lighting of Perry’s newest ‘Born of Fire’ sculpture took place during Monday night on Aug. 28. While the statue had made its debut to the community on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

A section of Willis avenue was shut down, making way for crowds taking advantage of free ice cream from the Indianola-based ice cream truck “The Outside Scoop,” to grilled goods from Perry’s Hy-Vee. Entertainment from the event was provided by KDLS’ “Big Red Van,” where songs were chosen with the theme of fire, paying tribute to the sculpture ‘Born of Fire.’

“Through the day, I felt the community coming together on it and I wanted everybody to be proud,” said Jenny Eklund, President of Art on the Prairie.

The ‘Born of Fire’ is the first of the four sculpture series Perry will receive in the community. In honor of Dallas “Pete” VanKirk, the Willis Ave. and 2nd street sculpture themed around the foundry. The unveiling of the sculpture will bring to life the appearance of hot, molten metal pouring out of the crucible.

Before the unveiling of the lights took place, small speeches were given by those who worked alongside the process of bringing the sculpture by life, including the planning stages as well as the actual construction.

“Well of course it’s all built up to this finale and so we didn’t know what to expect, but it just exceeded everything,” said Mary Rose Nichols, owner of Mary Rose’s Collection.

The event brought in both sculpture artist, John Brommel, and light guru, Mike Lambert, all of whom later spoke before the unveiling.

“Wait until it gets dark,” said John Brommel, sculpture artist.

“The idea of illustrating the love and care that Pete VanKirk poured into this community, the crucible and the stream of metal seemed like the only likely outcome,” Brommel said.

Following Brommel, Mike Lambert took the stage to discuss his experience with the sculpture.

“This really is a remarkable piece and the highlight of my career is working on pieces with John,” said Mike Lambert, light artist for the sculpture.

Before the lighting took place, members of the VanKirk family took the stage to address the crowd. Joyce VanKirk, Pete VanKirk’s wife, spoke to the crowd about VanKirk, discussing his passion for hard work, dedication to the community, and all around humble attitude.

“I think you could describe Pete as the nicest, most uncommonly common person you could hope to meet,” said Joyce VanKirk. “I was thinking today of how humbled he would be to be here with us tonight.”

Following her segment, Kirk VanKirk paid a tearful tribute to his father.

“For you folks who know Dad, you always knew that he played this down,” Kirk VanKirk began. “Community – was a big part of Dad’s life and he instilled that in us; we feel very fortunate that we grew up in Perry, Iowa.”

“We work hard and we like to see the community flourish, and if Dad were up here today, he would give credit most of his credit to the employees of Progressive Foundry first and foremost past and present, but Dad would speak highly of this community,” Kirk VanKirk said.

Finishing up the ceremony, Darek VanKirk discussed his reaction upon seeing the project done in full.

“I think they nailed it [sculpture] and I’m looking very forward to seeing it with the lights on,” Darek VanKirk said. “Thank you and thank you to the town of Perry.”

After the speeches were completed, Jackson VanKirk, Grandchild of Pete VanKirk, flipped the switch to reveal the lights in full on the sculpture.

The sculpture is the first of a four part sculpture series. According to Eklund, “The Iowa Girl,” dedicated to Roberta Ahmanson will be the next to make its Perry appearance.