"It's kind of an informational thing, plus it will give people a chance to see the rock," said Assistant Minority leader Rep. Todd Book, D-McDermott (89th District) of the rally on Thursday. "There's been so much talk about it, and so much exposure both locally and nationally, that we want to actually get it out of the garage and let people see it."
Book and historian Steve Shaffer, of Ironton, spoke to superintendents from all Scioto County public schools last month at the Scudder building in Portsmouth, about creating a student essay contest for fourth-graders. He said finalists in the contest may read their entries during the rally on Thursday, with a winner selected at the end of the evening.
"Prior to getting it out of the river, no one really talked too much about it, or knew too much about it. There were only a few people in Ohio and Kentucky that were even aware of it. Now that it's out, it's become important because it tells our history. Some of the names on the rock are definitely prominent names in the community. It's just a neat story," Book said.
According to local legend, the rock would surface about every decade when water dropped to a low level in the 1800s and early 1900s. People would then carve names, pictures and dates on its surface. Among them is what appears to be a smiley face whose origins are unknown.
Shaffer said there were five main theories as to the real history of how the face got on the rock.
"One is that in 1851, messages were placed on the rock, likely by early pioneers to mark the low water mark. The second is that a quarryman carved it with a metal tool. Theory No. 3 is that a band of robbers used it as a marker when they buried their loot nearby. The fourth theory is that it was carved by Native Americans, and that theory began in an account in the 1891 edition of the Portsmouth newspaper. And the fifth theory is about a hundred years old and it says a boy named John Book, a prominent member of Scioto County society who was killed in the Civil War, carved it," Shaffer said.
Once the dams were built, the rock appeared no more, because of the consistency of the level of the Ohio River. The last documented appearance of the rock was some time in the 1920s, until it was pulled from the river last September.
After the rally, the rock may or may not remain at the Welcome Center while officials decide on a permanent location, which still could be the Welcome Center.
"If you think about logically, where could the most people look at it, I suppose our place is as good as any. We have longer hours, and we're open seven days a week. We already have a couple thousand people per month coming through," said Bob Huff, president of the Chamber of Commerce, which is housed in the Welcome Center.
Huff said he thought it would be a good attraction, but said he has expressed concerns about having the rock at the Welcome Center.
"You have liability concerns. You have concerns about the legality of the whole rock issue. Kentucky claims it's theirs, and Ohio claims it's theirs. I don't know whose it is," Huff said.
Other concerns, he said, involved the actual presentation of the rock.
"Would it be encased? Would it be suspended some how that distributes the weight so that we don't run the risk of cracking the floor?," he said. "If it isn't encased ... what if someone comes in with a pocket knife and scratches it or tries to chip some off, or whatever? What if some child gets scraped, or grandma wants to take his picture from on it and he falls and gets hurt? We have to think about those liability issues."
He said these questions, among others, would need to be worked out before a permanent location could be chosen.
The fate of the Indian Head Rock has received attention by state and national media, with coverage by CBS News, The Associated Press and The New York Times. Book said the rally also will be covered CBS news crews on Thursday. It also has been the subject of a music video posted on YouTube.com, as a parody of the Queen song, "We Will Rock You." The video, posted by WNXT Radio, is called "We Will Rock U (Indian Rock Edition)." According to Bill Murphy, of WNXT, the video was created by a third party who did not wish to be identified.
Ownership of the rock continues to be questioned. Does it belong to Ohio or to Kentucky?
Earlier this month, Greenup County (Ky.) Prosecuting Attorney Cliff Duvall went as far as to issue a subpoena to Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb to appear in Greenup County Court, to testify before a Greenup County grand jury on March 28. Duvall said removing the rock from the Ohio River, which is largely owned by Kentucky, was a Class D felony under the Antiquities Act of Kentucky and carried a sentence of one to five years.
"Let's put the legal stuff aside. We have something that has attained some national recognition and people are interested now," Book said.
But many in our area feel it's recognition that we could do without.
"I just think it's ridiculous that these politicians want to spend this kind of money over a rock. There are so many other things they need to worry about, other than a rock. You have all the under-insured people, you have fuel prices at $4 a gallon now, there's just so much more that could be done," said Jason Kinksey, of Lucasville.
Kinskey called the issue a distraction to politicians, who have better things on which to spend their time and money.
"My job as representative has continued, and I think the mayor has continued to be the mayor, and we've all done the work we need to do. But it has not distracted. It's actually my job, and I'm sure a lot of the other elected officials' job -