Sculpture picks up wind

It's been more than six years in the making, but the Detroit Lakes Sailboat Sculpture will soon be gracing the landscape of the city beach on Little Detroit Lake.

It's been more than six years in the making, but the Detroit Lakes Sailboat Sculpture will soon be gracing the landscape of the city beach on Little Detroit Lake.

With a final completion date of Aug. 1, and an unveiling party slated for late July, the process of creating a permanent community symbol that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike has nearly come to fruition.

It was a little more than six years ago that Joleen Shodean asked her fellow members on the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce Beautification Committee what they thought about the idea of creating a permanent artistic sculpture in the city park, near the DL Pavilion. (Dennis Sherman was also involved in the "initial push" to make the project happen, noted Chamber President Dave Hochhalter.)

The committee liked the idea, and local artist Hans Gilsdorf signed on to create a 20-foot bronze sculpture of a sailboat -- the icon most often used by the city, school, Chamber and other organizations to represent this lakeside community.

Along the way, Gilsdorf and about a dozen other community residents came up with a way to raise funds for the estimated $90,000-$95,000 cost of creating the sculpture -- a public art project known as "Sunny in Detroit Lakes."


"It (the Sunny in DL campaign) just exploded," Gilsdorf said.

A series of 50 fiberglass "fish," created from a mold that was custom-designed by Gilsdorf, were purchased by local businesses and individuals. Local artists were then commissioned by the 50 sponsors to take the unadorned white fiberglass "fish" and get creative -- adorning them with everything from sailor hats to Viking horns to mosaic tiles made from crushed mirrors to be adorned with original designs created by local artists, and displayed throughout the community.

Throughout the summer of 2003, those fish were displayed in locations throughout the community, and tourists were encouraged to "find all 50 fish."

Two of those fish -- including one Minnesota Viking fish bedecked in purple, gold and a set of curved horns, then signed by all the current Viking players -- were auctioned off at the end of the campaign.

Proceeds from the sale of the fish were to be placed in the sailboat sculpture fund.

In all, about $38,000 of the overall cost for the sculpture was raised through the "Sunny in DL" campaign, Hochhalter said.

But so much effort was put into that campaign that subsequent efforts to continue the fund raising project "went stale," according to Hochhalter. "It (the sailboat sculpture project) needed to be re-energized."

Along came Teri Lynne Nelson and Shelly Stowman, who became co-chairs of the re-formed Sailboat Sculpture Committee.


And then, Bruce Langness of Ulteig Engineering came forward and said his company would spearhead the project to design and construct a 11 by 13 by 2.5 foot concrete base for the sculpture.

"We wouldn't be doing this if Ulteig hadn't volunteered to do the base -- that really got us going," Nelson said.

Still, the bronze-and-steel, 13-foot sails of the sculpture were going to cost about $72,000 to construct.

To raise the remaining funds, the committee is selling paver bricks, to be engraved with the donor's name, which will be placed along the exterior of the concrete base. These bricks are selling for $150 each. A total of 102 bricks will be used, but 27 have already been sold.

In addition, the committee is also selling a more limited-edition series of 12 engraved bronze fish plaques at $1,250 each, to be displayed prominently at intervals along the top of the base. Of these, eight are already purchased, Nelson said.

So far, a total of $61,000 has been raised for the sculpture, Hochhalter added.

"It's in production -- we're committed to the project now," Gilsdorf said, noting that Bohl Ironworks of Jamestown, N.D., has been commissioned to do the sculpture's metal work.

The design of the project has evolved slightly, from a solid bronze sculpture to one which consists of a welded steel infrastructure, finished in polished bronze.


"The Bohl brothers (Brad and Cory) have the green light to go ahead," Gilsdorf added.

Also in the plans for the structure will be a series of lighting fixtures that will allow it to be visible day and night. The lights will be designed to give off enough heat in the winter to keep them from becoming covered in snow and ice, Gilsdorf said.

Over the next couple of months, the committee will be hard at work finding donors to purchase the remaining bricks and fish plaques. The deadline for selling the bricks will be June 1, Nelson said.

Then, once all the money has been raised, the committee will begin planning for the official unveiling party, which will most likely be held sometime during the last weekend in July, Nelson added.

For more information on the sailboat project, or to become involved with the planning committee, please contact the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce at 218-847-9202, or send an e-mail to Teri Lynne Nelson at .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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