The fork that Franklin built
Kentucky’s Franklin-Simpson High School senior welding students create giant sculptures of art
Travelers meandering along Uhls Road off State Route 1434 in Franklin in Simpson County may ponder the meaning of the 21-foot-tall stainless steel eating utensil rising above the rural landscape.
Is it the philosophical embodiment of making a choice and living with the consequences? A riff on taking the road not taken? A quirky piece of art?
“I think it was just a pun at first,” says Amy Ellis, executive director at the Franklin-Simpson County Tourism Commission, of the hefty 680-pound fork. “Then it kind of became a real thing.”
Called the Fork in the Road, it was constructed and installed in 2018 by Franklin-Simpson High School’s senior welding students under the guidance of their teacher, Jeremy Loveall. It is one of many public art displays that never fail to surprise, amuse or halt in their tracks the visitors to this small town on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
For the past seven years, Loveall’s class has built and erected a number of welded pieces, including Space Capsule, named Captain Wildcat after the high school’s mascot. It is topped with a red light beacon and an alien lurks within. Another is the Locks of Love Tree, where those romantically inclined can hang a padlock as a declaration of their love.
“We’ve tried to do two pieces every year, so the kids have something to look back on,” says Loveall. “It gives them a sense of being part of the community.”
The sculpture designs, their intended locations, and the timing of the installations are all closely guarded secrets. In fact, when the class completed the Locks of Love Tree, it was dropped off on the courthouse lawn on New Year’s Eve, sans any fanfare.
As Loveall says, “That way, no one can tell us we can’t do it.”
The first piece Loveall’s class created was Darlene, a horse made of hundreds of horseshoes, in 2015. A second horse followed and soon became the toast of the town. According to Ellis, Melvin the Magnificent, as he is called, has become Franklin’s mascot. He gets dressed to celebrate most holidays and even has his own Facebook page.
In April, the students’ newest sculpture was added to the Franklin landscape: a 1960s-era Schreder Airmate HP-9 glider plane with a 48-foot wingspan, called Soaring over Blackjack. The piece is 23 feet tall and is a working weathervane.
But back to the fork.
“The fork sits in a beautiful spot surrounded by some of the prettiest farms in Franklin,” says Ellis. “It has spurred a lot of interest and brought many tourists. During the pandemic people took a lot of day trips, so the fork has had many visitors. It is a great spot to take a photo.”
The fork is not the only utensil seemingly growing out of Simpson County soil. There’s a 1,000-pound, 24-foot-tall butter knife—in fact, the world’s largest. Officially named The Cutting Edge, it was built by the welding class in 2021 and became the first piece of art installed in Franklin’s Blackjack Sculpture Park.
As for a spoon, Ellis isn’t sure whether the students are bringing this to the table—and Loveall isn’t telling. Regardless, Simpson County residents are lining up to make a place setting for it.
“I bet we have one at some point,” Ellis predicts.
See the Fork in the Road at 2018 Uhls Road. It is among Franklin-Simpson County’s public art displays that also include the Welcome to Franklin Mural at 205 North Main Street; Darlene at 81 Steele Road; Melvin the Magnificent on the northeast corner of the lawn at the Simpson County Courthouse; and the Captain Wildcat Space Shutter and Soaring Over Blackjack glider plane weathervane, which joins The Cutting Edge butter knife (the world’s largest) in the Sculpture Park at Blackjack, 4423 Blackjack Road.
For more information, visit the Fork’s Facebook page or contact the Franklin-Simpson County Tourism Commission at (270) 586-3040 or go to www.franklinky.com.