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Floyd of Rosedale comes home to Fort Dodge

Jul 23, 2021  | Ep4649 | Podcast


FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — He started as a the result of a bet between two governors, then became a traveling football trophy, but now, Floyd of Rosedale has finally come home.

The 14-foot-tall hog sculpture was set into place — with the help of a massive crane — atop its base at the intersection of 10th Avenue North and 32nd Street on Tuesday.

Floyd of Rosedale was once an actual hog on the Rosedale Farm, just east of Fort Dodge and very near the current site of the sculpture and Rosedale Rapids Aquatics Center. His origin comes from a racial conflict between the all-white University of Minnesota football team and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, who had All-American running back Ozzie Simmons, one of the few Black players in major college football in 1934. The Minnesota players singled Simmons out for some brutal hits on the way to winning the game.

Leading up to the 1935 game between the two rivals, the racial conflict began boiling again. To cool things down, Minnesota Gov. Floyd Olson bet Iowa Gov. Clyde Herring a live hog on the outcome of the game.

In the end, Minnesota won in a clean game, and the players from both schools complimented each other after it was over. Then Herring was on the hook for a hog, so he turned to Allen Loomis, the owner of Rosedale Farms, for a hog. He named the pig Floyd in honor of the Minnesota governor.

"It's a story that is very unique, when you think of two governors who resolved a racial conflict with a pig," said Fort Dodge City Councilman Dave Flattery, who has led the sculpture project. "A lot of us on the committee didn't know about that element of the story and we feel it's a great story that needs to be remembered and the best way to do that is to symbolize it with a statue of Floyd."

Flattery told the Fort Dodge Messenger that he wants Fort Dodge to be able to tell the story with its "unique characters" as visitors travel to see the sculpture. Just moments after Floyd was installed, drivers passing by slowed to admire the porker.

The sculpture that now towers over the corner southwest of the Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center was created by Mount Vernon artist Dale Merrill, who grew up right in the middle of Hawkeye country.

The Fort Dodge Public Art Commission sent out a call for submissions for a public art piece honoring Floyd of Rosedale back in 2019.

Merrill said the call for submissions was "wide open," but that the commission wanted clear concepts. He submitted his rendering of a Floyd of Rosedale concept and it was the one the commission chose.

Merrill said his main goal with the design was to make sure the sculpture was recognizable as Floyd of Rosedale.

"My other inspiration was to be somewhat abstract, to convey the form of topography and the map and the layers representing the contours and the layers and the terracing and things that we have in the fields throughout the Midwest," he said. "I grew up in Iowa and around farms, crops and pigs and I really wanted to showcase something that represented the Midwest."

After signing the contract to fabricate the sculpture in July 2020, Merrill went straight to work transforming his 2-D rendering to a 3-D model, and began design work to create the drawings of all the pieces to be laser cut.

"This year was tough because of COVID," he said.. "So supplies on the steel were drawn out and availability was slow. So we were able to work on him, it seemed like two or three months at a time and then we would have to wait for more material."

The first parts were laser cut in October 2020 and Floyd was finally completed last week. Merrill said he received some assistance from his son, Kale, who works full-time in Merrill's studio. His daughter, Remy, helped document the progress.

The sculpture is made of Cor-Ten steel, Merrill said. It's also sometimes called "weathering steel." The metal will build up its own protective oxide coating that will change color to a more reddish-brown and prevent corrosion.

Flattery was pleased with the installation on Tuesday.

"It looks perfect," he said. "It was a really good team effort. On the committee, we had people who had certain skills who made it work out. We had a group that was positive, that thought it could be done."

Merrill said he'll be visiting his sculpture to see how the steel's oxidizing goes, and he said there are plans to add lighting features so Floyd will be illuminated at night.

"It was an honor to be a part of the project and it's super cool to see him standing there," Merrill said shortly after Floyd's installation on Tuesday afternoon.

About $125,000 was raised for the project, and no tax money was used.

The Floyd of Rosedale sculpture was fully commissioned through private donations and grants. Major donors were the Catherine Vincent Deardorf Charitable Foundation, Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust, Fort Dodge Community Foundation and many other private donors.

Each donor will be included on a donor plaque placed at the site, Flattery said.

Floyd was driven into town on a flatbed trailer hauled by an Iowa Central Community College CDL Program semitrailer.

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