CARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Over the last 30 years drivers traveling up and down Interstate 75 in Campbell County have been watched by a creature, “the critter” as some folks call him, lurking just off Exit 134 in Caryville.
“I know so many families that have vacationed up or down 75 and the common conversation becomes the dragon,” Lansden Hill said.
Hill used to own the Thunder Mountain Fireworks shop that once sat on the property right next to where the 40-foot tall green dragon still stands.
“We were looking for some kind of landmark or some kind of something to set us apart from everything else and the dragon was born,” described Hill of why he thought to create the dragon. “There was only one name I knew that could build anything like that and it was Jim Cole.”
“It took me about five months,” began the artist behind the green creature. Jim Cole spoke about the last time he visited the dragon that he built in 1988.
The old friends are breathing some fire back into their creation so this dragon can keep a watchful eye on I-75 travelers for another 30-years.
“It’s all grown up around it and the concrete is getting down, dilapidated,” Cole said.
Others in the community have noticed the dragon is showing his age, too.
“I was contacted by the city of Caryville about a year ago and they said, ‘Ya know, we would really like to restore the dragon. It’s become a landmark in the city of Caryville,'” explained Hill.
Hill agreed with the city representatives and wanted to participate in the restoration of the figure that once was a mascot for his fireworks shop.
“So, representatives from the city of Caryville talked to Dollar General. They said they would absolutely give us permission to get on their property to restore it,” said Hill of the communication with the current property owners.
The restoration is planned for this spring. Hill said the goal is to start the restoration work by March so it can be completed by April. Cole said he didn’t think it would take him more than a week.
“The first thing we’re going to do is clean it,” Cole said. “The paint is faded out quite a bit and there will be some fiberglass work to be done.”