Unveiling of a free public art installation featuring 40 giant elephants which was due to happen this summer has been postponed until next year.
Called Elmer's Big Heart of Kent Parade, the project was to see the uniquely designed creatures arrive on the streets of Maidstone in June to form three trails around the town, its river path, countryside and parks until August.
The colourful public artworks will raise awareness for the Heart of Kent Hospice, in Aylesford, which is working on the scheme in collaboration with event producers Wild in Art and children's book publisher Andersen Press.
However today the hospice have announced that, with public safety in mind, it has taken the decision to put the event back until the summer of 2021.
Sarah Pugh, chief executive at Heart of Kent Hospice, said: "The hospice has taken the decision to move the parade for several reasons. Understandably our priority is to our 880 patients and their loved ones, and to our colleagues, supporters and volunteers; and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents and tourists visiting Maidstone for the parade.
"We are supporting our patients to cope with their terminal illness and the isolation they are facing during this very challenging time and we remain committed to helping them live comfortably and with dignity at the end of their lives. Added to which, there will be people who will sadly die from Covid-19 who also need that comfort and dignity. All our efforts are focused on patient care at this time.
"We are extremely grateful to our parade partners, sponsors, schools and groups who all support our decision to postpone Elmer’s Big Heart of Kent Parade and who are committed to making it even bigger and better in 2021. It will not only be a vibrant, colourful and momentous event for families to enjoy but we hope it will be a celebration of our local community uniting and getting through this challenging time together."
The animal sculptures are based on Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, the star of one of the most widely read children's books written by David McKee.
"Where's Elmer" - designed by Where's Wally artist Martin Handford - was revealed earlier this year as the first of more than 40 elephant sculptures set to join Elmer in the art trails around the town.
Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) leader Cllr Martin Cox said: "Whilst we realise that the postponement of Elmer’s Big Heart of Kent Parade maybe disappointing it is totally understandable in light of current circumstances and the right decision to make.
"As heritage partners MBC will continue to work with the Heart of Kent Hospice in supporting and promoting the trail as a landmark moment for tourism in Maidstone now during the summer of 2021.
"Elmer’s Parade will bring together all areas of our community to put Maidstone on the map, showcase the wealth of talent in the area and contribute to the economic, cultural and social life of the town, whilst at the same time raising valuable funds and the profile of the Hospice."
Last year, in a similar scheme, Wild in Art brought giant model 'Snowdogs' to Ashford, but the Elmer project is the first of its kind in Maidstone.
KM Media Group is the official media partner for Elmer's Big Heart of Kent Parade and other backers include Gullands solicitors, Westerhill Homes, Chartway Group, Scarbutts Printers, MCM Net, Clive Emson, Maidstone Borough Council, Gallagher Group and One Maidstone.
Maidstone artist Graham Clarke is the project's artistic patron.