I enjoy spreading the message of heritage, tradition, and values everywhere I go. I also try to live by those same words, because it gives me something to work toward – honoring the heritage, speaking and promoting the tradition, and living the values each day.”Larry Rowlette, Colonel Cullmann
CULLMAN – Larry Rowlette has been studying and portraying Colonel Cullmann, the founding father of Cullman, AL since the year 2000. He appears as The Colonel during annual Oktoberfest celebrations and many other events throughout the year in Cullman and all around North Alabama. We are proud to announce that he is this week’s Citizen of the Week.
Over the years, Rowlette has been asked how he became The Colonel, yet instead of answering the question; he’d normally smile, wink or ask the person to dance. Truth is, Rowlette’s transformation into The Colonel is a long story, and one that has remained somewhat a mystery… until now.
“It all started years ago with Mrs. Elaine Fuller, curator of the Cullman County Museum,” Rowlette smiled. “She regularly attended tourism events around Alabama and had noticed a common theme – local citizens portraying people from area history, specifically the founders or leaders of the towns and cities. She fell in love with the idea and wanted to do it here in Cullman as well.”
After several discussions with the Oktoberfest committee, the movement to have an actual Colonel Cullmann for Cullman, Ala. was born and the search for such a person soon began. It was the spring of 1999.
One year later, a Colonel Cullmann had still not been selected because no one fitting the description nor the desired persona had been found. One afternoon Pastor Bob Kurtz, president of the Oktoberfest committee and pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Church, indicated he had someone in mind that may be interested in the Col. Cullmann portrayal. The man Kurtz was talking about was Larry Rowlette, a local resident and member of the church.
“Kurtz invited Fuller to a Fourth of July presentation given by the members of St. John’s Church,” Rowlette explained. “Mrs. Fuller was a little leery, but she drove out to the Ave Marie Grotto in Cullman, where the presentation was held, and attended. She had gone to secretly watch me as I delivered a speech as James Madison,” he chuckled. “When the program was over, she introduced herself to me and explained her idea of me portraying Colonel Johann G. Cullmann.”
Rowlette was more than willing to support the community and there was no doubt in his mind he would accept the offer to portray Colonel Cullmann. But because he is also a prankster, he wanted to have a little fun with Mrs. Fuller.
“I acted a little confused, and then told her I would have to think about it,” Rowlette said, grinning like a mule eating corn.
“I thanked her for the consideration, turned and took two or three steps away from her. Then I turned back around and said, ‘Okay, I have thought about it. I’ll do it,’ and gave her a big ole smile.”
From that point on, things happened fast! Rowlette was told the portrayal was to be kept strictly confidential. Then he received a new suit of clothes made in the late 1800s style. An old walking stick was purchased that matched the one the Colonel held in the old photographs of him. Before long, Rowlette found himself completely transformed into the old gentleman!
A keynote speech was prepared for the Oktoberfest 2000 opening ceremonies. It was written as if Colonel Cullmann had risen from the grave just to attend the festival and talk to his people! It told of his life from birth to his death in 1895. It described the sacrifices he made, as well as the sacrifices of the people that settled in Cullman with him. It spoke of the travels and hardships he personally endured and also about his many accomplishments during his lifetime. Rowlette delivered the speech while standing next to a statue of Colonel Cullmann. Once the speech had ended, the crowd erupted with applause and Colonel Cullmann 2000 was born.
What originally was intended as a once a year Oktoberfest portrayal, Colonel Cullmann 2000 quickly became an opportunity for Rowlette to portray our founder throughout the whole year.
Dressed as the Colonel, he has spoken to civic groups all across the region, addressed local and state leadership and talked to kindergarten through high school senior classes throughout the county.
“I enjoy spreading the message of heritage, tradition, and values everywhere I go,” Rowlette stated.
“I also try to live by those same words, because it gives me something to work toward – honoring the heritage, speaking and promoting the tradition, and living the values each day.”
Cullman is full of talented and imaginative people, and Larry Rowlette is just one of them. This week we honor Rowlette as the CullmanSense’s Outstanding Citizen of the Week. If you know someone that you feel should be honored as an Outstanding Citizen, please let us know by e-mailing at email@example.com.