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Photos: Elephants on Parade

One local student's elephant design will travel the globe with those painted by famous celebrities, such as Katy Perry, Diana von Furstenberg and Tommy Hilfinger.

One lucky Capistrano Unified student will stand side-by-side Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg and Tommy Hilfinger.

Or rather, at least his or her hand-designed fiberglass elephant will.

A nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of the Asian elephants’ plight by recruiting famous celebrities to paint them – in their fiberglass form – included for the first time this year a contest for school children to join in.

And so it was elephants on parade Friday, as dozens of brightly colored pachyderms filled the normally subdued-hued hearing room for the Capistrano Unified School District’s Board of Trustee meetings.

More than 2,000 fourth- and fifth-graders from 18 Capo Unified elementary schools, including Capistrano Home School students, experienced a two-week curriculum about the Asian elephant, a critically endangered species, according to the Asian Elephant Foundation.

They then took paintbrush in hand to articulate creatively what they learned.

“I painted the world,” said 11-year-old John Bastian, “to show the world is one place. I put North America connecting to Asia and Africa. That’s why I named it ‘Peace,’ to have the people treat the animals with respect and not kill the animals.”

Elephant Parade is the brainchild of Dana Yarger, who recently relocated to Dana Point, said Rob Koscelnik, general manager of the DoubleTree Suites in Doheny Beach, one of the event’s sponsors. The tour of life-sized, celebrity-designed elephant sculptures has in the past included Asia and European stops, but this year will also include Dana Point.

Friday’s viewing included a first round of judging to narrow the field to 50 semi-finalists. From there, a final student’s elephant will be selected.

Then, a visual arts teacher from Capistrano Valley High School, Kent Baker, will help the student transfer the design on a 6-foot-tall elephant, which will travel to London, Singapore, Milan and Amsterdam with its own kind designed by celebrities.

Eventually, the life-size sculptures will make their way to Dana Point.  

The large elephants will be sold, and the school that produced the winning design will receive 15 percent of the proceeds, according to a press release. Selected smaller student versions will also be sold to go to Asian elephant conservation.

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