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J.C. Penney Statue Finds New Home In Kemmerer

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By William Billingsley, Kemmerer Gazette

Last Saturday, Kemmerer held its first-ever Golden Rule Days to commemorate the official unveiling of the J.C. Penney statue downtown in Triangle Park.

Hundreds of visitors attended and enjoyed the day’s many festivities, which began with a cornhole tournament hosted by Nomad Cornhole, a non-profit organization based in Kemmerer that generally donates most proceeds to local organizations.

Shortly after the tournament began, J.C. Penney historian David Kruger (from the University of Wyoming) led curious visitors and townsfolk alike in a downtown walking tour, talking extensively on the humble origins of J.C. Penney, how he came to get involved in retail, and his eventual visit to Kemmerer, a town that he would continue to come back and visit all throughout his life.

After the tour concluded, the day’s ceremony officially began with myriad speeches by distinguished local individuals, such as mayor Bill Thek or city administrator Brian Muir.

Other distinguished guests included two of J.C. Penney’s grandchildren, Shelly and Leigh Guyer, who also spoke on what the event meant to them and how they remember their grandfather.

Other individuals were also recognized for their significant contributions to the city of Kemmerer, either through their financial contributions to the community or their role in aiding the statue’s relocation from Plano, Texas.

After the ceremony was all said and done, the annual community picnic began in earnest for the hundreds in attendance while the band Proclaim began setting up for the crowd.

Speaking about the event after the ceremony, city administrator Brian Muir spoke on how this event came together: “I initially got a call from the J.C. Penney corporation back in January, asking if it would be possible to donate the statue to the city [from its initial location in Plano, Texas].”

According to Muir, the city received a great number of suggestions for potential locations for the statue, but they ultimately settled on the Triangle Park downtown.

“One of the things that we wanted to do was attract people to come into the Triangle with the statue’s placement, to have something catch their eye and have them stop to investigate” Muir said.

Additionally, Muir mentioned that this was not the end of the statue’s dedication, noting that there were still some further additions and embellishments that needed to be added to better highlight the statue’s significance.

Looking toward next year’s celebration, Muir was optimistic for the scale of how things may look next year, but noted that it would ultimately depend on the day’s fundraising and the decisions of the future council.

He also reflected on how he thought the event went: “I think that, if you plan well, it goes well … and I don’t know how I’d be happier with how things turned out … I appreciate the community for really coming out to the celebration itself instead of just coming out for the food, as the place was full at 5.”

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J.C. Penney Statue Arrives In Kemmerer From Texas

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

James Cash Penney is back in Wyoming, at least to some degree.

A statue of the retail magnate behind the department store bearing his name arrived in Kemmerer, its new home, late last week after being delivered from Plano, Texas, about 1,200 miles away.

The trip was apparently delayed by two days due to a winter storm in Utah.

According to the media reports, the statue was donated by the J.C. Penney Co. after it vacated its Plano headquarters last year as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

The statue is just over 9 feet tall and weighs around 3,500 pounds. It previously sat in the headquarters’ rotunda, a place employees would gather for celebrations and big announcements.

The city of Kemmerer now owns the statue and intends to winterize it before its installation sometime later this year, when the ground is no longer frozen.

The first store run by J.C. Penney, the “Golden Rule” store in Kemmerer, was put on the auction block in August by the company. No further announcement has been made about the store’s fate.

J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy last May and was given until the end of July to formulate a plan to tackle its debt that would appease the court and the company’s creditors.

The Kemmerer store was one of 21 company-owned locations listed for auction. Forbes stated that the store will likely be liquidated and sold after the auction.

The Kemmerer location is known as the “Mother Store” and has been in continuous operation since the company’s founding in 1902 by Penney.

The building is now part retail store, part museum.

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