Tuesday, June 24, 2014

#16: Piasa Bird

There are many legends behind this thing. I've been familiar with the Piasa Bird ever since my elementary school days. The most popular version of the legend goes like this: the first non-Indian to see it was Frenchman Father Jacques Marquette, which happened in 1673. At first he and his followers were scared of it (it was believed that the bird was there to scare non-tribespeople), but later were curious of the uniqueness of the painting. He would write about it in his journal or diary, and even draw what he saw.
The Piasa Bird

It would not be called the 'Piasa bird' until 1836, by a professor named John Russell. The name 'Piasa' is believed to have been from the word 'Piasua', which translates to 'the bird that devours men' or 'bird of the evil spirit'. However, these claims have been false according to historians. Another theory is that the bird has been repainted several times during the long period from 1673 to 1836. From 1836 on, it has been restored many times. Some time within 10-20 years ago, the Piasa Bird painting was taken down because it was blamed on traffic accidents on the Great River Road (Illinois Hwy 100) as people stopped in the middle of the road to glance at it.

There is even a legend about there being an actual 'Piasa bird' that killed Native Americans 500 years ago.

Wikipedia link
Page from Alton's website

Illinois State Route 100 (Great River Road), ALTON, IL, 62002
Cake artist: Jennifer Hayes (she also decorated the Famous Footwear/Brown Shoe Co. cake)

UPDATE (9/4/2016): The cake was removed in early 2015, and it was one of 3 cakes donated to the Friends of Haskell House in Alton. It was re-painted into a chalkboard-like cake, so kids can draw on it. It is not publicly displayed, with the exception of private and public Haskell House events.

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