Statue's celebration held Saturday

Monday, June 26, 2006
Forty years ago the Christ of the Ozarks statue was erected on the grounds of today's Great Passion Play. Inset shows its appearance today.

EUREKA SPRINGS -- On Saturday, June 24, at 10 a.m. The Great Passion Play held a special celebration for the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Christ of the Ozarks Memorial Statue. The general public was invited to attend the event held at the base of the Christ of the Ozarks.

The ceremony included an invocation by Marvin Peterson, an address from Keith Butler, music by Victor and Lili Michel, and Darry Lisemby, plus a special introduction of McKinley Weems. Forty years ago Weems served as the structural engineer on the Christ of the Ozarks project, making sure the statue had a solid foundation and steel framework.

Groundbreaking for the Christ of the Ozarks statue was held June 11, 1965. One year later, on June 25, 1966, the dedication of the statue took place. The statue sits at the top of Magnetic Mountain, which reaches an elevation of 1,500 feet and overlooks Eureka Springs. The mountain's name comes from Magnetic Spring at the base of the peak. The statue's foundation, which has 340 tons of concrete interlaced with steel, is welded into the rock.

The 67-foot statue is the tallest sculpture of Jesus in the Northern Hemisphere and it is the third tallest in the world. It is made of 24 layers of white mortar on a steel frame and weighs more than 2 million pounds.

Emmet Sullivan sculpted the statue and his assistant Adrian Forrette designed the face and the hands. For months, while under construction, the statue was surrounded by metal scaffolding so Weems created an elevator that took Sullivan to a platform at the statue's shoulders. With outstretched arms that span 65 feet, the statue faces west. The face and hands of Jesus were sculpted at a shop on Center Street in Eureka Springs. In the spring of 1966, the face was hoisted to the top of the seven-story statue.

The statue is open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, free of charge. The Great Passion Play, a nondenominational ministry and religious attraction where the statue is located, is also the home of the New Holy Land Tour, Bible Museum, Sacred Arts Center, Museum of Earth History and other unique attractions, and features a section of the Berlin Wall on its grounds.

The Play is performed five days a week and is the number one attended outdoor drama in the United States, having seen over 7.5 million visitors over the last 37 years. The Christ of the Ozarks Memorial Statue was the first project completed on The Great Passion Play grounds.

In addition to the 10 a.m. celebration, there was other festivities throughout the day, including a performance by the New Liberty Quartet at 6:30 p.m. and a visit from artist Jack Hettrich at the Sacred Arts Center.

For more information call 1-800-882-7529 or visit greatpassionplay.com

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