Hundreds of people gathered at Argyle Lake Sunday for much-anticipated unveiling of the new Bayman Statue.
The statue stands 7 feet high and is cast in quarter-inch thick bronze.
“The Bayman” – wearing waders, tongs, and a 1970’s mustache – is designed to remind the public of an era when the Great South Bay was overflowing with clam beds.
“Two-thirds of the world’s hard-shelled clams came out of the Great South Bay,” said Babylon resident Wayne Horsley, also a member of the Bayman Statue Steering Committee. “But the livelihood of the bay has dwindled over the last 40 years from 10,000 licensed clammers to only 21 licensed locals today.
“The Bayman reminds us that the earth is resilient and that this bay will clean itself up and bring itself back to the way it used to be.”
Artist and Sculptor Jose I. Fernandez was welcomed by a roaring applause and explained the steps involved in welding the Bayman statue.
“All in all, it was about six months of work stretched over the course of three years from concept to finish. And I’m very proud of it. I took it very seriously because I know it’s going to be here for a long time and I really respect that. I wanted the finished product to feel timeless,” he said.
Fernandez was asked to be a part of the project in 2016.
Several educational boards are also mounted behind the statue. Those highlight the peak of local clamming in the 1960s and 70s, as told by the Babylon Historical Society.
Babylon native Richard Donald Hoffman struggled through tears to tell of his father’s story during those glorious years for clammers.
Hoffman was 4 years old when his father was killed by a drunken boater.
“There’s still times where I’ll drive down to where his boat was docked,” Hoffman said. “He died doing what he loved.”
The statue was built to honor men like these, as well as provide walkability to members of the community.
“This is the first time we are commemorating 1960’s and 70’s history, and those years matter,” Horsley said.
It especially matters to first generation bayman Don Smith, whose been clamming for 50 years.
“I started in high school in 1968,” he said.
Smith had plans of becoming an English teacher but put that aside after learning he’d double the amount of money English teachers were making during that time.
“Of course by the late 70’s, English teachers were making more than I was,” he said.
But that didn’t stop Smith from working in the water full-time. Smith said he was hooked the first time he experienced his “first pull of clams.”
He is glad the village is paying homage to clammers like himself.
“This is a great day for Babylon Village and the Great South Bay,” Horsley said. The Bayman is a clarion call to our neighbors of the Great South Bay who have been so good to us throughout the generations.”