"The kids ran the whole show," said Coffey. "They selected Thailand because we have a real connection in the county." A couple of people with Tai connections live in the county and helped with items for the display inside the elephant.
The elephants are an endangered species
Coffey said Tai elephants are an endangered species and are held in high esteem by the people.
"The kids felt ownership and became real involved in the project," said Coffey. "It was the talk of the conference."
The club actually wanted to use the display as a water market, but with the limited space, decided against it and went with the elephant. However, Harper created a miniature water market and temple inside the elephant's head.
"We started with cardboard boxes and chicken wire. Wynona showed the kids how to put it together, which took two months of Saturdays," said Coffey. The wire frame was covered with papier-mache. Artifacts that included authentic clothing, food items, scarves, hats, cookbooks and various items from Thailand were placed inside the elephant where people could walk in and view them.
Making the huge elephant was not as much problem as getting it to Louisville for competition. One side fell off when it was moved from the gymnasium stage to the floor. Then it had to be cut into sections to get it into Executive Inn.
"A few more layers of papier-mache would have made it stronger, but spray foam was used on the inside instead," said Coffey.
Members dressed in authentic costumes
The day of the competition, the club members dressed in authentic costumes complete with headdresses made by parents. They carried a smaller papier-mache elephant, the name and flag of the country they represented in the Parade of Nations.
After the competition the elephant ended up in a local storage building and will be used for other special productions.
Coffey said the project got help from the 21st Century Learning Center and volunteers in the community.
"We couldn't have done it without the local support," said Coffey. "Wynona has helped with every spring production we've done. She's done the backdrops all these years. She's wonderful and a special gift to us." Coffey said the Y Club, a part of the YMCA organization, teaches students to do community service and school projects. It teaches them moral and character skills. The club also is represented at a mock legislative session each year to get a taste of government.