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In February of 1992 the city of Clovis unveiled the Festus Statue created by local artist Sam Hutchings. Until recently it stood in "Old Town" outside the Clovis Big Dry Creek Historical Museum. Inside, the museum features some of Ken Curtis' personal memorabilia as well as local historical items.

The statue has now been moved in front of a local bank, because the museum is currently undergoing construction.
Festus, now guarding the Educational Employees Credit Union
The citizens of Clovis take pride in the landmark: “Ken 'Festus' Curtis embodies all the wonderful attributes held by our Clovis citizens and even more,” said Clovis historian Ron Sundquist. “He is the symbol of a great hero, so needed by everyone young and old.”

Sam Hutchings sculpted the Festus Statue in 1991. “I feel very blessed to have been able to do the memorial of Ken Curtis. I am a 56 year old grandmother. And art is my life.”

“Torrie Curtis, Ken’s wife, brought me everything that I needed to make the statue. Such as his boots, holster, hat and such. She gave me several pictures of him and brought me a bust made of him by another artist. Torrie
taught me a lot about Ken. We used to sit and just talk
about him, her doing it to relieve her grief of losing him. She loved showing me special things of his that he loved.

“I did the statue out of Cement and rebar. I hand molded it from the feet up. It took about 5 months to make. Working in cement is heck on the hands and you have to be pretty patient. It's a lot of fun though, and the reason I ever got started working with cement is it seems so everlasting. I know the statues will last a lot longer than I will.

“The day I felt it was finished, Torrie and her daughter and granddaughter came out to my house. When they pulled in, her granddaughter said “Look Grandma, there's Grandpa!” When the car stopped Torrie and her daughter were crying. And of course I started crying too, especially when they told me what she said. About two weeks later we had the unveiling. I donated the statue to the City of Clovis.”

From The Fresno Bee
May 21, 2003
Heading West
Clovis restrooms spur move of cowboy statue, but higher profile seems to click.
By Marc Benjamin Edition: FINAL Section: LOCAL NEWS Page: B1

Almost 30 years after the television career of Gunsmoke deputy marshal Festus Haggen concluded, the character still has not galloped into the sunset.

Just across the street.

This month, a statue of Festus – the character created by former Fresno County resident Ken Curtis – was moved from the rear of Clovis Big Dry Creek Museum to the front entrance of the Educational Employees Credit Union.

The higher-profile location didn't require an agent or publicist.
It was a greater purpose: nature's call. Moving the statue will create space for new downtown Clovis restrooms. “The option we had was to build [restrooms] back there, and the question was what could be done with Festus?" said Willy Barnes, Educational Employees Credit Union branch manager and a downtown business group board member who has been working on the statue relocation for 18 months.

The restrooms will be built in an area on the south side of the museum, which sits at Fourth Street and Pollasky Avenue.

Work will begin this summer and be finished by late fall, said Sharon Jackson, Business Organization of Old Town's executive director. “It's something we have wanted for a very, very long time,” she said. “I have been working on it for seven years, and they were working on getting restrooms before I was here.”

The bonus, Jackson said: Festus is more visible and likely will become the subject of tourists' photographs.

Barnes said, “It's amazing how much interest it's sparked from people using the ATM [automated teller machine]. People have noticed him.”

The credit union paid the roughly $2,000 expense to move the 900-pound statue. “It didn't take 15 minutes,” said Jeff Webb of Target Construction, the company that moved Festus 200 feet to the southwest. “I tell everyone he's guarding the bank.”

The statue was donated to the city by local sculptor Samantha Cowen in 1991 and unveiled in February 1992.

The Festus character was portrayed by Ken Curtis, an actor cast in several western movies, including How The West Was Won. He died in 1991 at age 74 at his home south of Clovis.

Festus was a character born during an appearance as "Monk" in "Have Gun Will Travel." Curtis joined the cast of "Gunsmoke" in 1963 and played Festus until the series ended in 1975.

Curtis moved to rural Fresno with his wife, Torrie, in 1980. In his words, it was to “get away from Los Angeles.” Curtis was a World War II veteran who was a rodeo cowboy, a pre-med student in college, a singer with Tommy Dorsey and a movie and television actor.

“ Ken 'Festus' Curtis embodies all the wonderful attributes held by our Clovis citizens and even more,” said Clovis historian Ron Sundquist. “He is the symbol of a great hero so needed by everyone young and old.”

The day before his death, April 29, 1991, Curtis rode in the car of Clovis Rodeo grand marshal Martin Mouliot, a longtime friend.

The life of the statue that memorializes Curtis' most famous character has not been without its saddle sores. In 1992, only two weeks after Festus was placed, the statue had its legs severed and his neck and arm cracked.
In 2000, the statue was defaced with eggs, toilet paper, mustard and paint balls before being rolled off its base.

For those who may have any notions about additional cowboy cruelty, Webb has a warning: “This time, he's bolted down.”


Sculptor Sam Hutchings at the unveiling of Festus' statue.