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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Trip To Bishopville Part One - Pearl Friar Topiary Guarden

On Saturday, September 19th, my travels took me to Lee County, South Carolina to visit the small Southern town of Bishopville

Bishopville is the county seat of Lee County. It is famous (and infamous) for several known reasons. It was the hometown of legendary football star and 1945 Heisman Trophy winner Felix Anthony "Doc" Blanchard, and the nearby swampland is noted for being the home of the legendary Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp, a noted cryptic that has allegedly been seen off and on since his original sighting in June of 1988. 

Ironically, it was on the latter subject that promoted my desire to visit the small rural town halfway between my home in Chester County and the Atlantic Ocean. 

I saw a recent article back in August where another alleged sighting of the Lizard Man was reported. The sighting and the "photo" (which looks like a guy in a rubber suit) was treated with the same skepticism as previous sighting and acts of vandalism reportedly committed by the seven-foot tall reptilian humanoid that supposedly appears every few years or so. 

Being that it is getting close to Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year, and my childhood interest in such legends, I decided at the very least a little road trip was called for. I gathered up my youngest brother, Alex, and picked up my grandmother, Carolyn, who wanted to get out of the house and away from my grandpa, and we set off to Lee County.

Aside from the local Bigfoot (some people claim that the so-called Lizard Man is actually a Skunk Ape - another type of Sasquatch native to the American Southland) the town of Bishopville and Lee County in general offers several points of interest that I planned to stop and look at.

Upon arrival in Bishopville, our first stop was at a local family owned restaurant called Harry & Harry Too. It was closed on the weekend, but the famous landmark sign was the main attraction. It features a wild depiction of the Lee County Lizard Man.  
Humm, I wonder what he's cookin up?

Just across the road from the Harry & Harry Too sign was another sign welcoming visitors to what is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the area: the world famous Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.

Located at 145 Broad Acres Road in Bishopville, Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden is home to one of the most breathtaking attractions in South Carolina. This three acre garden is visited annually by tens of thousands of tourists passing through the area. 

Mr. Fryar, the artist, is known nationally for live topiary sculptures. and won many awards over the years. Both Fryar and his carefully sculptured topiary garden - set around his small home - have been featured many times on television specials and in dozens of magazines. 

Dedicated to Mr. Fryar's message of "love, peace, and goodwill" the topiary itself contains over 400 individual plants along with various statues and sculptures beautifully made out of spare junk parts. Mr. Pearl's garden is a living testament to hard work, dedication and positive thinking. 

Folks, the photos alone cannot do the place justice. The garden and the living sculptues Mr. Fryar made show a unique and amazing talent that needs to be seen in person to give it the breathtaking respect it deserves. Alone, the topiary is worth the stopover in Bishopville.

Me and Alex meeting with the famous artist Mr. Pearl Fryar.
Mr. Fryar spoke with us and several other visitors at some length about his artwork and his website. It was truly a pleasure to listen to him talk about what motivated him to sculpt.

It should also be noted that the rest of the neighborhood had similar lawn sculptures. Some were Mr. Fryar's work, other we were told were done by neighbors who didn't want to have the only drab lawn on the street. 

After thanking and bidding Mr. Fryar a fond farewell,  we continued our journey to our next stop in Bishopville, the South Carolina Cotton Museum. The museum unfortunately was being renovated at the time, but the lobby and gift shop were open. It was the exhibits in the lobby that prompted the visit anyhow. 

On display are several of the artifacts from the first Lizard Man sightings in 1988, including the actual casts of the footprints made by the Lee County Sheriff's Department at the time. The prints are obviously someone's idea of keeping the legend alive (the heels are far too found and symmetrical to be real). The other exhibits on display include some of the original Lizard Man merchandise sold at the time. 

There are butterbeans covering the bottom of the display case in reference to the fact that the original Lizard Man sighting took place near an old butterbean shed. The sign for the old shed was also on display in the museum's lobby. On in the display were facts concerning the legend and it's origins, which go back all the way to the Catawba Indians that inhabited the area centuries ago.

Well, I have to leave it off here for today. I will conclude this little adventure on Friday.

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