Why yes Sharon, that orca is a new addition to the lazy river this year! So much more than just a “cutesy” character, the WallerBears Orca has been a local favorite for decades.
The orca was commissioned in 1995 especially for WallerBears Surf Shop by Bruce Williamson of Williamson Surf Art in Florida. It was made entirely from fiberglass and sculpted by hand. WallerBears Surf Shop opened in the shopping plaza just north of PirateLand in 1977 and was family owned and operated for 39 and ½ years. Crew member Jeff Chestnut remembered getting his first pair of rainbows from WallerBears in the early 80’s.
“There were no other real surf shops, if you were on the south end you either went to Village or WallerBears, they were it” Chestnut said.
When the business closed, the owners wanted to be sure the whale found a new home close by. In the wild, orcas live in family groups and are quite social. We were honored to help relocate the whale and felt our camping family was a great fit . We picked it up from WallerBears in early 2017. Local artist Teresa Jordan, whom you may know as our pottery and paint party hostess, repaired and painted the whale. It took some time to get it looking fresh, ready to be remounted, and to decide where exactly it would go.
We wanted to put it on display for all to see, but also give it purpose. For more than a year the crew discussed options for the whale’s future. Mini-golf course? Playground? Pool area? Pool area was definitely the top contender. Someone suggested we could run a line through it for water to come out. Summertime visitors know – the lazy river gets hot as it is easily warmed by the sun. Tons of guests have suggested we find a way to cool off the lazy river. This would be a great way to add some cooler water. It was no easy feat, but the crew got it done in March of 2019. The WallerBears Orca made its PirateLand debut when we opened the pool on April 4, 2019.
We hope you enjoy the new addition and can appreciate its local history. To honor that history we’re going to call it “WallerBear”. Also please note, it can be a little shocking (and refreshing) to get hit with the cold water - So watch out!
For more information on Orcas visit - https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/o/orca/