In July, Insider Louisville reported that “Will Russell says he’s OK and his businesses are in good hands.” However, it now appears Funtown Mountain is closed, and Russell is late filing necessary paperwork with the state on behalf of his other two businesses, WHY Louisville and LebowskiFest.
On Tuesday, Funtown Mountain in Cave City, Ky., was not open when a source visited the site, and there are no hours of operation listed on its Facebook page. A request for information sent to Russell was returned with the reply, “All is well.”
IL’s source — a Cave City resident — says she found the place in grave disrepair, with broken windows, garbage littered about, and additional damage caused by splattered paint. Last month, Russell splashed yellow paint around the parking lot and on some of the Funtown Mountain buildings, along with his own car. Pictures from that time show items from the souvenir shop in disrepair in the parking lot.
On Saturday, Aug. 29, Cave City police arrested Russell ahead of the planned “Beetlejuice on the Mountain” program that was supposed to happen that night. This was his second arrest in as many months, this time on charges of DUI, marijuana possession and other smaller infractions, all of which he refutes on his Facebook page. In the wake of his July arrest on charges of marijuana possession, resisting arrest and menacing, IL reported that rumors of Funtown Mountain’s future were swirling, fueled in part by disjointed messages from Russell on social media.
In an interview with IL in July, Russell called Funtown Mountain his “art project,” but it’s a project that many people put their hearts and money into. Jobs were promised to locals, while Barren County businesses and residents hoped Funtown Mountain would have a positive economic impact on the area.
So far, none of that has come to pass.
The money behind the mountain
In February, the Kentucky Tourism Development Loan Program approved a $250,000 loan for Funtown Mountain. The loan is to be repaid over 15 years at an interest rate of 6 percent. Gil Lawson, executive director of the Office of Communications for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts & Heritage cabinet, said such loans are “just like a bank loan” where recipients pay monthly. Once a business receives a loan, Lawson said, “we do not check up on them.”
Funtown Mountain operates under a different LLC (Land of Tomorrow) than Russell’s other two businesses, WHY Louisville and LebowskiFest. As collateral for the state tourism loan, Lawson tells IL that Russell put up a parcel of the Funtown Mountain land.
In putting together funding for Funtown, Russell also raised $26,323 on a $25,000 goal from 181 backers on Kickstarter. This includes one person who gave $10,000 to have his statue put on top of the mountain; two backers who paid $300 for two season passes for 2016; three people who paid $250 for a night of partying on the Funtown bus; and 20 people who gave $75 to name their own hot dog at the Mountain concession stand. Backers who gave at least $25 were promised a T-shirt.
On June 5, an update was added to the Kickstarter page saying: “We’ve been super busy getting the park ready and things are going great! We will be finishing up all shirt and print shipments today and will reach out in the next few days about other rewards.”
Despite the promise to ship “today,” more than three weeks later another update, signed by Russell, said: “We have discovered that the email [email protected] is haunted and isn’t working at all! We have gotten no emails with your addresses and shirt size for fulfillment.” There are several complaints on social media about missing T-shirts, but none on Kickstarter itself.
While it’s impossible to say what other sources of funding Russell has for the project, in July, he told WDRB that he owed money to “banks, private lenders and Mom and Dad.”
Meanwhile, both WHY Louisville and LebowskiFest have failed to file their annual report with the Secretary of State, so they are in “bad” standing and “pending dissolution.” However, the businesses can easily be returned to good standing for a small fee and completion of said reports.
On Tuesday night, this 24-minute video was posted to YouTube and then was posted to the Funtown Mountain Facebook page. It’s called “Funtown Mountain: The Rapid Rise and Fall” by a blogger of Southern culture and roadside attractions called The Carpetbagger. Despite the fact that he lives more than five hours away, he has a pretty accurate summary of the news surrounding the attraction.