The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 25, 2013

Fishy landmark: Travelers will be able to see Waterville's giant sunfish from highway

Travelers will be able to see Waterville's giant sunfish from highway

By Amanda Dyslin
adyslin@mankatofreepress.com

---- — WATERVILLE — They're hoping it'll be one of those novelty landmarks you see on billboards on the side of the road, beckoning you to the world's largest ball of twine in Kansas, the neon-sign graveyard in Las Vegas, or the world's tallest thermometer in California.

In just a day or two, Peter “Axel” Streed says folks passing by Waterville on Highway 60 will be able to see from their cars something just as unique and eye-catching — a massive, lifelike, 10-foot by 6-foot sunfish planted right on the top of Axel's Tackle Box bait shop on Highway 13.

“You bet it is,” Streed said. “It's going to be good advertising for me. I'm sure it will become (an attraction), like that big cigar, or a big Indian. The big fish will be a landmark.”

Artist Adam Scholljegerdes is behind the massive sculpture, made of a welded metal frame wrapped in high-density foam. He's been carving since childhood and has worked for more than five years at Brushwork Signs in Faribault, which creates specialty signs.

“I love carving different things,” Scholljegerdes said.

Of the hundreds of projects he's completed, the sunfish is the largest (not including his massive ice sculptures in the winter). He's been working on it steadily for a couple of months, and it will be installed on top of Axel's new roof this week.

Scholljegerdes said Axel's is about two blocks from his house, and it's a place to hang out and shoot the breeze with friends and neighbors. He's known Streed for years. The commission came about after Scholljegerdes did another sign with the business' name to complement Axel's recent renovation.

“It needed a facelift up front,” Streed said.

A cedar awning was constructed out front, a metal shed was erected, and a green tin roof now covers the building.

Scholljegerdes had pitched a big fish carving for the store before, but Streed said before the renovation, he had a whole heap of banners and free-standing signs out front to attract attention.

“It looked like a junk yard to tell you the truth, but it attracted attention,” he said.

Once all the signs were gone, Streed said the idea for the fish started to seem like a darn good one.

Streed has seen photos of the work in progress, and he said he likes what he has seen so far. The fish seems pretty lifelike, and he's looking forward to seeing it painted and on his roof.

“It's a pretty cool deal,” he said.