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City sailboat sculpture nears completion

It's been a long time coming, but Detroit Lakes' signature sailboat sculpture is nearing completion.

When finished, the sculpture will stand 20 feet tall and be lit up 24 hours a day with special weatherproof lights. Its sails will stand 13 feet above the base.

"A light inside the base will illuminate the sails at night," explained project designer Hans Gilsdorf.

On either side of the base will be the words "Detroit Lakes," so that they are visible from the both the street and the beach.

"The base is formed, and the footings are set to be poured by the end of this week," said Kris Carlson of Ulteig Engineering -- which designed the 11-foot by 13-foot by 2.5-foot concrete base.

The rest of the base will be poured over the next 2-3 weeks, after which the sails will be delivered by Bohl Ironworks in Jamestown, N.D. -- the company hired to construct the bronze sails.

Gilsdorf and Carlson both belong to the Sailboat Sculpture Committee, which has been hard at work on raising funds for the public art project over the past couple of years.

This project was the brainchild of Jolene Shodean, a member of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce Beautification Committee, who first approached the Chamber board with the idea more than six years ago.

Another public art project, the "Sunny in DL" campaign, raised over $38,000 by selling sponsorships for the 50 fiberglass sunfish that have brightened up the Detroit Lakes landscape over the past few years. Some of the fish were even auctioned off, including the "Viking fish."

(This fish, decked out in purple and gold and signed by the entire Vikings football roster -- which then included Randy Moss -- was auctioned off to the highest bidder, with all proceeds going toward the sailboat project.)

All kinds of local artists donated their creative talents to make each fish unique, adding everything from paint to sequins to pieces of mirror glass.

A special plaque on the finished sculpture, titled "The Crew That Made it Happen," will recognize those who made major in-kind contributions and large contributors who are otherwise unrecognized.

Additional fund-raising came in the form of bricks, sandblasted with the names of the business, family or individual who contributed $150 (per brick) toward the project. The bricks will decorate the perimeter of the sculpture's base for viewing by generations to come.

"The bricks are being sand-blasted right now," said committee member Teri Lynne Nelson.

There are also 12 bronze sun-fish plaques -- sold to each donor for a $1,250 sponsorship -- that will be engraved and interspersed amongst the bricks.

"The people who bought bricks (and plaques) all had to be contacted to make sure their names were all spelled correctly," Nelson added.

Though they don't yet have a date set for the unveiling, the base is expected to be completed in 2-3 weeks (each part of the base needs to set before the next is poured). After that, the sails will be shipped into town by Bohl Ironworks and set into place.

Though there are two sails -- "the mainsail and the jibe," said Gilsdorf -- they are really "one big piece (of bronze).

"It's actually a very complicated piece (of sculpture)," he added. The sheer weight and size of the project demanded careful planning.

For more information on this publicly supported art project, contact the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce at 218-847-9202.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454