‘Big Fish’ sculpture is latest nod to Wetumpka film history

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Wetumpka, known as a filming site of the 2003 movie “Big Fish,” has a new sculpture to celebrate its history – a 7-foot-long catfish made from hubcaps.

“It celebrates our ‘Big Fish’ history,” says Shellie Whitfield with the Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce. “That is a great representation of Wetumpka.”

The quirky sculpture was erected downtown in November 2021. Whitfield said not only is Wetumpka home to the “Big Fish” house, a distinctive white, hilltop manor used in the film, it is known for its bass fishing opportunities and for the Big Fish Challenge Kayak Fishing Tournament.

The sculpture is by Colorado artist Brett Jakel (pronounced yay kel). Whitfield, who once worked as an art teacher in Colorado, knew of Jakel and his work. “The artist is a good friend of mine,” she said. “He’s been making hubcap sculptures since he was in high school.”

You can see more of Jakel’s work on his Facebook page.

Whitfield said one day she noticed a photo of Jakel’s catfish sculpture and shared it on her social media. From there, it got the attention of Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis. Noting that the fish was made entirely of hubcaps from Ford vehicles, Willis managed to secure sponsorship from the local dealership, Collier Ford, which purchased the statue for the city.

The sculpture is made of pieces of hubcaps 78 hubcaps found on roadsides. Jakel has about 5,000 hubcaps in his garage, he said.

Read more: Wetumpka becomes tourist mecca for fans of Erin and Ben

Whitfield lives in the manor known as the “Big Fish” house. It doubled as the home of Edward Bloom in the movie, which was based on the book by Alabama native Daniel Wallace. In 2021, Ben and Erin Napier, hosts of the HGTV show “Hometown Takeover,” featured Wetumpka. The crew helped refurbish many local buildings, including the “Big Fish” house, which needed costly renovations.

Scenes from “Big Fish” were also filmed around downtown Wetumpka, as well as on Jackson Island, in Montgomery and at Huntingdon College.

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Read More: Can abandoned ‘Big Fish’ film set be transformed into a real town?

Other films made in Wetumpka include 1995′s “The Grass Harp” and 2002′s “The Rosa Parks Story.”

This catfish made from hubcaps by artist Brett Jakel is on display in downtown Wetumpka, where the movie “Big Fish” was filmed. (Courtesy of Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce)

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