Friday, September 8 marked a day in history for St. Robert. The mayor hosted an unveiling of the latest Freedom Rock across from the St. Robert Wal-Mart parking lot.
Freedom Rock artist Ray Sorensen II, famously known as Bubba, talked with the Daily Guide about how he starts a Freedom Rock. He said, “I usually spend about seven to ten days on each one so I think I started on the work on Friday. I’ll get close to done this evening [Friday night], but I’ll probably button things up tomorrow [Saturday]. It starts with a sketch. We visit about local history and what they want to honor. I come up with the design and they get a chance to veto things and say, ‘We’d rather do this than that’ and then I get started. We don’t get hung up in the sketching process.”
St. Robert Mayor George Lauritson walked through Sorensen’s artwork at the reveal. Lauritson said, “We’ve got the state of Missouri, of course General Leonard Wood and his association with the Rough Riders, which then Teddy Roosevelt took over, and then Ray Sorensen’s signature flag he always does [on top of the rock]. And then he has the soldier’s cross on the end. As you notice, this end [opposite of the soldier’s cross] is not painted.” The mayor explained that Sorensen likes to show the original rock so viewers know what the rock looked like before Sorensen started painting it.
Sorensen shared the story of how the Freedom Rock Tour started with his desire to show his appreciation to veterans, “I wanted to say thank you to our veterans so I went and worked with my hometown of Greenfield, Iowa and I painted over this large, 12 foot tall, 90 ton rock and I painted a thank you to our veterans.”
Sorensen did not know his hobby would turn into a continuous activity. He said, “I thought that would be it--that would be over, but it was a graffiti rock so it got graffitied over and then the next Memorial Day veterans asked, ‘Are you going to go out there and paint that again for Memorial Day?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, I’ll go out there and paint something different.’ And that started this annual tradition of every May for Memorial Day, I go out and paint a thank you to our veterans on this large rock and have for the past 19 years.”
Sorensen was surprised this movement was a chance to display his art skills. He said, “In doing that, I didn’t realize it, but I was advertising myself as a mural artist.”
The Freedom Rock Tour still has a long way to go. Sorensen said he is “trying to put a Freedom Rock in all of Iowa’s ninety-nine counties. Currently I have sixty-five Freedom Rocks in the counties in Iowa. This will be my third Freedom Rock in our Fifty State Tour ‘cause I want to try to put one in all fifty states as well.”
Sorensen had multiple objectives in mind when he started the Freedom Rock Tour. He said, “I had three main goals in painting the Freedom Rocks. One was to thank our veterans, two was to promote tourism, and three was to take care of my family. I thought if I could accomplish those three, I’ve done something.”
The mayor had some last minute comments about the community. Mayor Lauritson said, “We need to realize where we’re coming from. We are a heavily-impacted military community--we need to recognize that. Sixty percent of those that are retiring out of Fort Leonard Wood stay in the local area. We’d like to build up that retirement community; we do that by making sure they feel welcome like I did for the last twenty-seven years.”