April 20 has become an even more special day for Willie Nelson. On the day long reserved to celebrate marijuana use, the Country Music Hall of Famer made an appearance in downtown Austin, Texas to help unveil an eight-foot bronze statue of himself, which was made by Philadelphia sculptor Clete Shields.
The unveiling ceremony took place in front of the Moody Theater, where the Austin City Limits Studio is now located. In front of about 2,000 people, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell praised Nelson as "the man who really, more than I think any other person, made the city of Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world."
Fellow country artist Kris Kristofferson was also on hand to honor Nelson. As he delivered a heartfelt introduction, the 75-year-old congratulated the ten-time Grammy Award winner and said that he couldn't have imagined the city honoring the singer during the early days of what became known as the Cosmic Cowboy movement in music.
Nelson himself came to the event wearing black jeans, a black T-shirt and a black cowboy hat. During the acceptance speech, the 78-year-old crooner thanked the organizers and joked with the crowd as the clock approach 4:20 P.M., "What time is it? I feel it's getting close to something." He later performed "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die".
Nelson's statue depicts the singer sitting on a stool while holding his acoustic guitar to the side. The nonprofit Capital Area Statues Inc raised private donations for the statue. The group's president Lawrence Wright told Reuters it was not easy to find a sculptor who could capture Nelson's connection with his fans. Of Shields, Nelson himself said, "I thought he did a pretty darn good job."