Look out for the lions!

Lion flags on Railroad Avenue in the Historic Business District of Alderson.
Lion flags on Railroad Avenue in the Historic Business District of Alderson.

The Town of Alderson is displaying nearly 50 “lion flags” on its lamp posts and along its streets. Created by third, fourth and fifth grade students in the Alderson Elementary School, these wonderful art projects celebrate the legacy of French, the pet lion who used to roam the streets of Alderson.

Local lore indicates that a 19th century Alderson woman rescued a circus lion cub from being drowned in the Greenbrier River. The cub came of age, freely roaming the streets. As French grew in size, and following an unfortunate incident with a travelling salesman, town council passed a unique ordinance requiring that all lions residing in the town be kept on leashes, specifically to rein in French. So, Alderson has the distinction of being the only town in the country to have an ordinance prohibiting lions from running loose in the streets.

The lion flags were conceived by Melinda Russell, a member of Alderson Main Street, as a public art project, to give the Alderson Elementary School students the opportunity to create some unusual art to decorate the town. Funding for the art supplies was partially provided by the Hollowell Foundation, the Mary B. Nickell Fund, and the Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation Fund.

Russell said, “From the moment this project came to mind, all I could think of was how proud the children would be when they saw their work hanging along key streets in the town. It was a chance for the children to really see that they are citizens of their community and that they and their work enrich the community. It was an opportunity to help children understand that pride in themselves and pride in their town are very, very important.”

Allison Hostetter, a fifth grade student in Rebecca Canterbury’s class and daughter of Gary and Karen Hostetter, was present at Council to display her flag. When asked about the best part of creating her lion flag, she said, “I had fun.”

Russell said, “The students were great to work with as were the teachers. We have some incredible talent in Alderson and this is just one way to display it.”

Among those who helped with the project were Alderson Elementary School personnel: Brittany K. Anderson, principal; Krystal Holliday, school secretary; Greg Rookstool, security officer and Lynn Davis, teacher. Volunteer painting coaches included Theresa Winstead, Catherine Frerotte, Jill Ayers and Stella Elgie.

With the approval of Alderson City Council, Mayor Travis Copenhaver and maintenance staffers Rick Burns and Eric Duff were essential to getting the flags hung.

Visitors to the Strawberry Festival in Alderson on Saturday, May 28, which starts with a strawberry pancake breakfast at the Alderson Volunteer Fire Department from 6:30-9 a.m. and lasts until 3 p.m., will have an opportunity to see the flags.


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