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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
The Fresno Bee
May 21, 2003
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
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 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.”