One of the many good things about being in the Rocky Mount Garden Club here in my hometown is that every April we go on some sort of field trip.
This year we visited the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Wilson, a nearby city here in eastern North Carolina. I’d heard of this place for quite a while but had never taken the time to drive over and check it out.
What a sight! I didn’t count, but the Whirligig Park website says there are thirty giant metal whirligigs–the largest collection in the world–twirling here, all created by farm-machinery repairman turned folk artist Vollis Simpson.
Mr. Simpson began making whirligigs at his farm in Wilson County when he was near retirement age and kept at it until a few months before he died in 2013 at age 94. Before his death, a plan had been hatched to preserve his work by moving it to downtown Wilson.
The visitors that once flocked to Mr. Simpson’s farm to view the whirligigs now come to Wilson, helping to revitalize downtown.
The day of my visit, I wandered for quite a while in the whirligig park under an almost-hot April sun, taking picture after picture. Beneath each windmill-like sculpture, a title is posted, related no doubt to features of the whirligig. Do you think these whirligigs are aptly named?
Somehow I missed the name of one of my favorites. I’ll call it Sawing Logs. A lady in our group said she’d seen this whirligig in a stiff breeze with the crosscut saw moving briskly back and forth and the dog’s tail wagging.
There’s an interesting urban legend connected to the whirligigs. When my daughters were in high school, I’d hear them talk about visiting a place called Acid Park. They were cruising over to Wilson to view the whirligigs, which at the time were at the Simpson Farm.
They thought the whirligigs had been created to honor a daughter who’d died in a car wreck after having done LSD. The story was that Mr. Simpson had dreams of what his drugged daughter had seen on the night she died and set about creating these images. In reality, Vollis Simpson did have a daughter, but fortunately she is alive.
The truth is the whirligigs were created by a man who had a lot of spare parts left over from his days as a farm machinery repairman combined with a lot of spare time when he retired. Add to that a whopping talent for creating fascinating, gigantic, outdoor folk art.
The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park is definitely worth a trip to Wilson.