The newest member of the Popeye and Friends Character Trail has arrived in Chester.
The TOAR statue got here Wednesday, Oct. 28, and was delivered to its resting place at the St. Nicholas Landmark in Chester at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Mike McClure, the founder and coordinator of the ongoing character trail project, was first on hand to see the statue of TOAR arrive at the riverfront. And just like any new father, McClure carefully watched every move the installers made throughout the unloading and installation process.
The statue was created overseas and brought to the United States via ship. Once on American soil, it was received by the Arthur J. Lager Monument Company in Breese, Illinois, and delivered to Chester by truck.
McClure and several local media and friends met the truck and watched Kurt Schroeder of Red Dot Construction very tenderly lift the base and the statue off the truck and into proper position.
Once secured, McClure carefully covered the statue with a tarp to protect it from the elements until the unveiling ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.
Conducting the ceremony was Tom Welge, president of the St. Nicholas Brewing Company. Welge was joined by Abby Ancell, general manager of the St. Nicholas Brewing Company; McClure; and Mayor Tom Page of Chester.
Joining in on the fun were numerous citizens of Chester and friends of the statue character trail, as well as local media and 75 bicycle riders who were awaiting the start of the Cannonball Fall 2020 Bike Race.
As noted at the base of the statue, TOAR was a 20,000-year-old cave man that debuted on Feb. 7, 1935, as Popeye's foe. Soon, however, TOAR became one of Popeye's most trusted friends.
"Most people don't know, but TOAR was a character drawn by Elzie C. Segar to be a sidekick of Popeye's. In the comic strip, TOAR was actually hired by local gangsters to get rid of Popeye," McClure said.
"TOAR had never been defeated in his many battles, but when he faced Popeye, after a horrific fight, Popeye eventually won the fight and TOAR woke up liking Popeye and hardly ever left his side from that point forward."
The TOAR statue is the 17th location in the Popeye and Friends Character Trail. He is the 27th character to appear on the 17 statues, and he proudly overlooks the Mississippi River where many of the Popeye cartoons take place.
Next year's statue will feature Harold Hamgravy. "Olive Oyl and Harold Hamgravy were the two first characters that Elzie C. Segar created for the Thimble Theatre on December 19, 1919," McClure said. "For almost 10 years, Olive Oyl and Hamgravy were the two main focuses of Segar's comic strip. They had a back-and-forth love relationship that sometimes leaned toward marriage and sometimes was filled with turmoil.
"Popeye did not come into the picture until 1929, after which Hamgravy seemed to exit the picture. From that point on, Popeye was the central focus of comic strips, cartoons on TV and even a movie."
The Harold Hamgravy statue will be located on the grassy area in front of the Kerkhover Law Office down by the Randolph County Courthouse, near the Olive Oyl statue that is right across the street on the corner of the courthouse parking lot.
"It seems as if after all of these years, Olive Oyl and Hamgravy will be united once again, at least geographically," noted McClure.
According to McClure, sponsors of the Hamgravy statue are already beginning to reserve their places on the base of the statue.
"Every one of the 17 statues that have already been erected over the years have been sponsored and paid for by individuals in the community," McClure said. "The City of Chester has always been a regular sponsor, but they are just one of many sponsors and from year to year, sponsors vary."
Interested potential sponsors can contact McClure at (618) 826-5125 or at email@example.com.