In the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York City is a plaque bearing the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” with the famous words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” At the start of the new year, Nicholasville residents saw their own statues of liberty along North Main Street, with the huddled masses inside the costumes yearning to stay warm.
The men and women who stand along the road clothed in the long green dress and topped by the pointy foam crown have become a landmark in Nicholasville as they hold, wave, and sometimes even dance with signs promoting Liberty Tax Service as drivers-by honk and wave back.
The crew consists of five or six part-time workers who take four-hour shifts, usually keeping someone out by the road from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
While the costume — which occasionally includes a large foam mask — attracts enough attention on its own, those who wear it have been especially noticed recently as they’ve stood by the road in several inches of snow braving single-digit temperatures. Jason Turner, who had the morning shift last Thursday, said his military training helped but that it could still be a tough job.
“It just depends on how long you stay out there,” he said. “At first, it’s not really cold, but standing out there and waiting for a while, it’ll get to you.”
April Bingham, 37, worked the afternoon shift last Thursday as the snow that would eventually total several inches began to fall. She said that although she had never had a position that exposed her to harsh elements, she withstood the cold well and appreciated the job.
“When you’ve got to find work and you’ve got to feed a family, you got to do what you got to do,” she said.
Chuck Beighle of Liberty Tax Service said he has no problem every year finding enough people willing to don the costume and hold the sign.
“I’ve got two back from last year,” Beighle said.
Turner said he enjoys the interactions — however brief they may be — that he gets with drivers and the community.
“It’s actually kind of fun, because people just sit there and wave,” he said. “You can see them moving their mouths and talking about you; it gets around town a lot.”
The 25-year-old only moved to Nicholasville last September, so the exposure gives him a leg up in meeting new people.
“Since I just moved to town, it’s basically just seeing new faces everywhere I go,” Turner said. “It’s kind of interesting just to meet people. Sometimes, people will recognize my face in the store, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, you’re that Statue of Liberty person!’”
While Bingham takes a slow, steady approach to her shifts, just holding the sign and waving, Turner takes advantage of the ability the job gives to “goof off” a little.
“Every now and then, I’ll spin it. Sometimes I’ll shake it and throw it up in the air,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll set it down and just start dancing; it’ll get their attention, and I like to goof off a lot, too, so it’s actually kind of a fun job, really.”