MEREDITH — The excitement was tangible as residents and neighbors gathered in Community Park ahead of the unveiling of a statue honoring a local and national celebrity, Archie Andrews, and the artist who brought the comic book character to life.
Bob Montana based his Archie comic strip on real-life friends, many of them his acquaintances in Meredith, where Montana made his home. He had a gallery across the street from the park where Thursday’s dedication ceremony took place, and his children had front-row seats for the noon unveiling.
It was architect Chris Williams, serving on the Greater Meredith Program’s Design Committee, who came up with the idea of creating a life-size statue of Archie as part of the Meredith’s 250th anniversary celebration.
Lynn Montana said there was a suggestion years ago for a large mural to celebrate her father’s contributions to the town, but the family did not want such an “in-your-face” memorial. The statue of Archie sitting on a park bench – where people could sit and pose for pictures with the fictional high schooler from Riverdale – was a much better fit, she said.
The committee selected sculptor Valery Mahuchy of Bethlehem to design the statue, and the Meredith Lions Club donated the bench as a legacy project.
Mahuchy, a native of Belarus, graduated from the Academy of the Arts in Minsk, and he brought his own creative energy to the project while preserving Montana’s own artistic style.
Bob Manley, president of the Greater Meredith Program, said there was some trepidation about being able to pull it off, but he credited Jim McFarland, the chairman of the Design Committee, with making it happen.
McFarland said having the right partners was crucial to the effort’s success, and told the crowd that Mahuchy had captured Archie’s open and playful persona perfectly.
He listed the main sponsors — Bob Lawton of Funspot, the McLear family, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Mill Falls on the Lake, and Archie Comic Publications, Inc. — as well as several other major donors who made the work possible, and gave credit to those who donated their time, talent, or other support for the project.
Lawton noted that Montana used Jughead’s likeness for the Funspot arcade’s logo of a jester sitting on a golf ball, and Jughead still appears on Funspot tokens.
Courtney Smith of Easterseals spoke of Montana’s support for that organization, which helps people with disabilities. Montana had offered to make Archie the campaign chairman for Easter Seals in 1969, and the effort raised a record $75,000 in donations that year. Archie, “assisted by” Montana, did the same the following year, raising $94,000 for the agency.
In recognition of that effort, Smith read a letter to the Montana family from Easterseals and presented a plaque to Lynn Montana, as the representative of the family.
Addressing the crowd just prior to the unveiling, Lynn Montana thanked the Greater Meredith Program and town officials for keeping Archie alive in Meredith — “his first and only home” — and said the statue serves to honor all of those who have contributed to Meredith over the years.
“For our dad, Archie represented them all,” she said.