As the first full weekend in June approaches, organizers are nearing the panic mode as they complete preparations for Chingawassa Days. Those who have followed the events through the years may have noticed the event’s logo, along with ads and posters promoting the weekend, often include a rhinoceros. Early versions showed the silhouette of a classic rhino. As time passed, the rhino has been transformed into a more cartoon-like figure, usually standing on two legs. He also gained a name.
“Pete the Rhino” has been seen boarding a railcar, standing with outstretched arms in front of a classic railcar, wearing a “buff” pirate-style hat on his head, standing in a disco pose with one upraised arm, and this year will be seen in a rock-n-roll pose with his guitar, and in full gallop promoting the rhino run.
So why a rhino named Pete?
One of the members of the original Chingawassa Days committee was Elton “Pete” Peterson. He was an enthusiastic member of the group who was well-liked by everyone. Unfortunately, Pete had a serious illness, and although he was able to participate in the planning of the first celebration, he was severely limited in his ability to participate when the events actually took place. Nevertheless, his dedication was an inspiration to the rest of the committee.
Pete had an interest in rhinos. He had a number of statues, figurines, and pictures of them. When Pete died, the Chingawassa Days committee informally adopted the rhino as a logo in his memory.
The committee commissioned a chain saw artist to carve a rhino statue which is kept in the Marion Chamber of Commerce office most of the year but is brought out the weekend of Chingawassa and displayed in the park. The silhouette of a rhinoceros was used on certificates of appreciation and thank-you cards.
By 2000, the rhino, which by then had become known as “Pete”, was incorporated into the actual Chingawassa Days logo for that year.
Prior to that time, the logo always featured a railcar because of the former railroad connecting Marion to Chingawassa Springs.
In 2000, Pete the Rhino was seen boarding a Chingawassa railcar. Pete has continued to be a part of the logo ever since. In recent years, “Pete, the Chingawassa Rhino,” has become the centerpiece of the logo.
While the original intention of using the rhino as a symbol of Chingawassa Days event was intended to honor Pete Peterson, now has come to realize it is a very recognizable and unique symbol with which to promote Marion’s premium entertainment event. What other community in Kansas has a rhino as its mascot?
Look for Pete the Rhino to continue to grow in popularity and to spring upon clothing, signs, publications, and anywhere Chingawassa Days is being promoted.