Fans greet the iconic Highland Tire rhino’s return to Tarentum from ‘world tour’
Look who just got back on Saturday: an iconic Alle-Kiski Valley landmark that some claim had been on a worldwide tour.
That’s right -- the Highland Tire rhino’s back in town.
“The rhino unfortunately blew off the roof, but it’s turned into a good thing, and the rhino is back and looking better than ever,” company President Brad Bonnett said. “It’s the same rhino -- it’s just repaired.”
The large fiberglass animal that sat atop the company’s Tarentum operations for about 40 years has been gone since May, when it was blown off during a storm. It sustained damage to its horn, back and tail and needed to be repaired.
The missing rhino caused quite a stir when it first came down. Highland Tire employees said they received several calls from people wondering where it went.
“I couldn’t believe (the community’s) reaction, to be honest with you,” Bonnett said. “It’s been tremendous.”
The stir was still quite palpable during Saturday’s “Welcome Home” party for the rhino at the store. Dozens of people came to express their appreciation for the area landmark, taking photos with it, chatting and eating hot dogs. Guests also had the chance to win four free tires up to 18 inches.
Bonnett thanked his employees, saying none of this would be possible without them.
“We’ve got employees that have been with us a long time,” he said. “They make everything happen.”
Michael Yurchick, 35, of Allison Park, and his son Tyler, 3, were among the revelers at Saturday’s soiree. Yurchick and his wife grew up in New Kensington, and their parents still live in the area. When the two bring their children to visit, they always make a big deal out of the rhino.
“Every time we come in, they both go nuts,” Michael Yurchick said. “Every time we’ve come by and he’s not there, we have to tell them he’s getting fixed and everything. We saw this in the paper, and we had to bring him.”
Yurchick said his wife and daughter unfortunately couldn’t partake in the festivities because they had other plans. He was told to record the event.
“We have to send pictures,” Yurchick said.
Brittany November, 27, of Frazer also brought her children Dulcie, 4, and Bonnie, 3, to see the rhino. She used to work as a secretary for the company.
She said the rhino is something that is fun and unique.
“It’s not something a lot of places have and there’s a lot of pride in this local business, and I can appreciate that,” she said.
The company has been having their own fun with the rhino on Facebook this summer.
Gene Millen, Highland Tire operations manager, shared pictures of the rhino on a “world tour” vacation, putting it into scenes such as the British royal wedding, the Great Wall of China, London and the World Cup.
Millen said the community’s response makes you think about how something small can make an impact on someone’s life.
″’Cause you have it on your roof, you don’t think about it -- you just know it’s there every day,” he said. “But for everybody else, it’s kind of a landmark in a way.”
The rhino will be returned to its rightful place Monday.
Bonnett said precautions have been taken to anchor the 200- to 300-pound rhino to make sure it doesn’t come down again.
“It’s going to be supported heavy,” he said.