April 21, 2012 / 4:50 AM / 6 years ago

Bronze statue of singer Willie Nelson unveiled in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - An 8-foot-tall bronze statue of country singer Willie Nelson in his trademark braids was unveiled in Austin, Texas, on Friday, an unofficial pot-smoking holiday.

Singer Willie Nelson waves beside a statue of himself during its unveiling in downtown Austin, Texas April 20, 2012. REUTERS/Julia Robinson

Nelson, who has long advocated legalizing marijuana, sang “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” The statue features the country music legend sitting on a stool with his acoustic guitar, Trigger. Even the W sign at the nearby W Hotel wore braids on Friday.

“I thought he did a pretty darn good job,” Nelson, an Austin resident, said of Philadelphia sculptor Clete Shields after the cover was lifted off the 2,000-lb statue.

Lawrence Wright, president of the board of the nonprofit Capital Area Statues Inc, which raised private donations for the statue, said it was not easy to find an artist who could capture Nelson.

“We wanted the sense of connection Willie and his fans have, which is so electric and so human,” Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, told Reuters before the unveiling.

Nelson, an Austinite, is “the man who really, more than I think any other person, made the city of Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell told a crowd that included musician/actor Kris Kristofferson at the entrance to the Moody Theater at a plaza along Willie Nelson Boulevard.

Among the fans at the unveiling were Austin residents Alli and Richard Roberts - who said they own all Nelson’s albums - and their 6-month-old son, Richard.

“I’ve always loved Willie Nelson,” Alli Roberts said. “He’s an awesome guitar player and singer. And he’s good people.”

That the ceremony took place on April 20 - 4/20 - at about 4:20 p.m. local time drew a lot of chatter on social media given that 420 is widely known among the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all things marijuana.

Nelson had this question for the crowd: “What time is it?” He added: “I can feel it’s getting close to something.”

By then it was already 4:30, and there was a slight smell of marijuana in the air.

Reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker

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