A 15-foot cyclone sculpture created by faculty at Fort Hays State University is permanently on display in Codell.
Toby Flores, associate professor of art and design at Fort Hays State University, and Danielle Robinson, adjunct art faculty, were chosen by Codell to design and fabricate a 15-foot cyclone sculpture in honor of “Cyclone Day.”
“Danielle and I felt honored to be selected by the city of Codell,” said Flores. “We instantly connected with the people in charge of the project. They were easy to get along with and we were all passionate about the strange history of this event.”
For three consecutive years, in 1916, 1917 and 1918, Codell was struck by tornadoes on May 20, which community residents have now labeled “Cyclone Day.”
Codell, in Rooks County about 34 miles northeast of Hays, now has less than 100 residents.
The steel sculpture was dedicated on May 20.
“The dedication was awesome,” said Flores. “It really was a great feeling to have the project finished and to celebrate it with our families and the people of Codell.”
“It was also very emotional because this is a part of their families’ history. They lost family and friends on this day and we were also there to remember them,” he said.
About 150 people attended the dedication, which included a band, speeches by Merril Teller and Joel Russell and a cookout. People brought newspaper clippings and old photographs from the time of the original cyclones.
“It felt good to have the support of the people who live in that community or once lived there,” said Flores. “It was a great day.”
Flores and Robinson have created four local public sculptures together, including St. Nicholas at the St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church, the golfers at the Smoky Hill Country Club and the historical door stops at the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau building.
“All of these projects have special meaning, but this one was my favorite,” he said. “The people of Codell made it a very special project from beginning to end.”
“It takes a certain amount of bravery to erect a public piece of art anywhere, but especially in a small western Kansas town.”