The Fremont Festivus weekend is upon us. An annual celebratory event when locals gather around a bronze, dead dictator adorned with lights, for food, live music and Fremont Festivus games. Wacky activities include “airing of grievances, feats of strength, and the Chicken Dance ‘round the Festivus pole,” reports the Fremocentrist and the Fremont Chamber of Commerce.
This breed of odd mayhem is par for the course in the quirky Fremont, Seattle neighborhood. But then what’s the deal with the Vladimir Lenin statue? What is a symbol of mass oppression and totalitarian violence doing at the center of such a free spirited community?
Fremont Solstice Parade 2013. Photo: Flickr
The story begins in the year 1988 in Poprad, Slovakia. A talented Bulgarian sculptor by the name of Emil Venkov spent 10 years crafting this bronze rendering of Lenin, only to have it toppled into the mud after the 1989 Velvet Revolution brought an end to communism in Czechoslovakia. The victory of the revolution was celebrated by the election of rebel playwright and human rights activist, Václav Havel as President of Czechoslovakia on December 29th, 1989.
Meanwhile, Lewis Carpenter, a Vietnam veteran from Issaquah was traveling around teaching English in Poprad, Slovakia, when he spotted the Lenin statue face down in the mud. Carpenter admired Venkov’s craftsmanship and the unique depiction of Lenin surrounded by guns and flames. Most other Lenin statues feature the dictator holding a book or waving his hat.
Vladimir Lenin statue, Fall 2007. Photo: Flickr
Carpenter decided he must have it and mortgaged his house to pay for it’s transport back to Issaquah. He paid $13,000 for the statue and $40,000 for the transoceanic shipment to Washington, reports Issaquah Press.
The 16-foot, eight-ton statue survived the long journey to Issaquah, but was not there long before tragedy struck. In 1994, Carpenter died in a car accident while driving through Stevens Pass. Carpenter had envisioned the statue greeting visitors at an Eastern European restaurant on the eastside, but now that he was gone, the fate of the statue was uncertain.
Fremont Fine Arts Foundry owner and sculptor, Peter Bevis took up the cause and paid $10,000 out of his own pocket to move the sculpture to Fremont. Judging by the red blood often painted on Lenin’s hands and the word, “DISGRACE” written on his leg, not everyone in the community enjoys the statue’s presence.
Vladimir Lenin Statue, Spring 2015. Photo: Flickr
In an ironic display of capitalism, communist Lenin is now up for sale at the price of $250,000. If the statue ever sells, the Fremont Chamber of Commerce would get a 35 percent commission — with that money going to local artists, reports Issaquah Press.
Neighbors who aren’t offended by the statue’s presence enjoy dressing Lenin up in drag for the pride parade, as a clown, and in various scarves during the winter. Like it or not, until Carpenter’s family finds a buyer, Lenin remains a Fremont fixture.
Lenin statue with top hat, 2009. Photo: Flickr
Happy Festivus to the rest of us!