A special dedication that took place in Shelby County Friday evening was a prelude to a Parish Picnic. Before the kickoff of the 2013 St. Joseph’s Parish Picnic in Earling, the Earling American Legion Post 615 introduced the newest tourism attraction to Shelby County, the Earling Freedom Rock.
The Shelby County Freedom Rock
The Freedom Rock in Earling was painted the last two weeks in June by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen. The special dedication was led by Jack Kenkel who is a member of the Earling American Legion Post. Kenkel said the rock was an idea by the American Legion.
“Part of the Legion’s thrust is to keep patriotism alive. We have an excellent group of Legionars with most of them from that Korea World War II era. I believe we have 7 or 8 of them have been 60 plus in the Legion. There was where we want to build off of their kids, grandkids and let them know what happened as an example today.”
In Kenkel’s speech he gave a tour around the rock from the flag on the west side all the way around to the north side or as Kenkel called it the “Patriot side.” “That is the Veteran’s who have paid the price since World War II. The last one being native son Paul Finken. We just don’t want to forget them.” It was hard for Kenkel to thank everyone as so many volunteers stepped up and helped with the project but he does have some advice for anyone who did help. “I’d say stop and enjoy the fruits of their labor, be it monetary, sweat equity or just a thank you. Come and see what they put here for I hope a long long time.”
The artist for the Freedom Rock Bubba Sorensen was on hand as well at the ceremony. Sorensen said the inspiration around the paintings on the rock was from a group of local residents.
Ray “Bubba” Sorensen.
“I met with a group of them including Jack and they mentioned Paul who was a high ranking officer. That became the focus on the rock and I will filter around it. I wanted to make sure I painted him first. Then once I got here to Earling I saw the church and saw things to incorporate that would make a great addition. I knew about Firefighter Collins but it didn’t click that he was from Shelby County. Every county has these types of stories so I took it as a jigsaw puzzle and make something interesting to look at.”
Sorensen has painted rocks for the past 15 years and has already completed 7 other Freedom Rocks in Iowa before Earling’s. However, the artist known as Bubba is only getting started on his journey through Iowa because he plans on creating Freedom Rocks in 99 counties. “I don’t think I can get this done any quicker than 10 years so it has been in the back of my mind that it will take a decade. It has been overwhelming and a lot of work already and I’m in the first year. When you take a step back it will go by quicker than you think. I am going to compile pictures and stories so hopefully people can look at it and enjoy the experience through a book.”
In addition to the original Freedom Rock in Adair County, and the recent edition in Shelby County, similar paintings have been completed in Dallas, Polk, Ringgold, Pocahontas and Mitchell Counties. 37 other Counties including Adams, Audubon, Crawford, Carroll, Fremont, Mills, Monona Page, Taylor and Union, have booked Sorensen to paint a Freedom Rock in the coming years.