BLUFF -- A 16-foot wooly mammoth will be set ablaze by men shooting flaming spears at it Friday night in southeastern Utah.
It's not a real one, of course, but a life-sized effigy built by artists in the tiny town of Bluff, Utah, to celebrate the winter solstice and bring attention to the history of the area.
The life-sized mammoth is made of tree branches and tree trunks -- the creation of artists Joe Pachak and J.R. Lancaster. A YouTube video shows residents helping the pair it over several weeks.
Petroglyphs that may be 13,000 years old show that wooly mammoths once roamed the area, said Fort Lewis College history professor Andrew Gulliford. This event shines a light on the significance of the area, he said.
"It's an incredible piece of art," Gulliford said. "It combines art and science."
The town of a few hundred people, located about 65 miles south of Moab, is no stranger to large fires. Every year, residents gather their yard waste and make a large bon fire on New Year's Eve, said Bluff resident Teri Paul.
The seeds for this first-ever event were planted when Pachak made an effigy of an elk last year that turned out to be amazing, Paul said. That inspired Pachak to begin building the mammoth at an arts workshop in October.
From the surrounding bluffs, "it looks like a real mammoth walking through town," Paul said.
They are expecting hundreds of people at the burning, set for 8 p.m. Friday, including some people from out of town, she said.
"This has turned into this huge event," Paul said. "It's really been cool because everybody is so into it."
If the first-ever mammoth burning event goes well, people in Bluff hope to make it a yearly event, she said.
They will set the mammoth ablaze Friday night using flaming ancient spears called atlatls. The ceremony will include drumming.
Bluff is near the San Juan River and just north of the northern edge of the Navajo Indian Reservation.