Burlington, News

A symbolic installation

Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty stands beside one of two fox statues perched on platforms of the Jefferson Street Bridge overlooking the Fox River (Jason Arndt/Southern Lakes Newspapers).

City unveils fox statues at Jefferson Street Bridge

By Jason Arndt

Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty had a vision beyond simply replacing the Jefferson Street Bridge.

That vision became a reality on March 6 when officials unveiled a pair of fox statues overlooking the Fox River in the downtown area.

Hefty – who recognized numerous sponsors during the unveiling – said the ceremony came after years of discussions with state officials about her idea of placing the foxes on platforms.

“As the years went by, I wanted this to be a stunning gateway to our city, as a welcoming area to our visitors,” she said. “But my real focus was the visitors using the waterway. I realized I wanted to have two foxes.”

While the state agreed to pour concrete platforms, Hefty needed to find sponsors willing to contribute to the project, so there was no cost to taxpayers.

Hefty wanted both statues consisting of granite and found a partner in Pat Vogel from Ketterhagen Memorials to help jumpstart the project through the design phase.

Ketterhagen, which previously had helped Hefty with her vision of creating the Veterans Memorial Wall at Echo Veterans Memorial Park, jumped at the opportunity and decided to create clay models portraying a fox before sending them to China to finish the project.

“It was a fun project,” said Vogel, who co-owns Ketterhagen with his wife, Trish.

“We worked with the mayor on another project, the Veterans Wall in Burlington. She was the driving force behind getting all of the veterans recognized who are from the Burlington area,” Vogel added. “We have worked with her on some cool projects.”

Once Ketterhagen Memorials stepped forward, Hefty needed to seek additional funds and several local business leaders pitched in to help make the mayor’s vision come true.

Contributions came from John Wanasek, of Wanasek Corporation, Barbara Bakshis from Greenwoods State Bank honoring the passing of Gail Ellis, Boardwalk Apartment owners Bryce and Anne Styza as well as the Walter (Chip) Bahr family.

“Bless you, and all of the donors for making this happen,” Hefty said.

The statues, which took time to be manufactured, had been put in place a week earlier and wrapped in plastic bags prior to the official unveiling.

Hefty, who was on hand for the placement, marveled as crews installed the statues on the platforms.

“When you see a one-ton fox dangling in the air to be placed on a road to hold this fox in place, it was breathtaking,” she said.

Symbolic placement
Motorists might not see the foxes facing them as they travel along the Jefferson Street Bridge.

But, according to Hefty, she wanted each statue placed in a specific position, noting recreational users of the river would be able to see them prominently as they travel beneath the bridge structure.

She wanted the eyes of each fox focused on the Fox River.

“These foxes have the eyes and nose painted and polished, and they look like marble,” Hefty said.

Dave Stauffacher, an insurance agent who owns the State Farm Insurance branch next to the Jefferson Street Bridge, fully understood Hefty’s vision.

He said the two statues will also serve as a tribute to Hefty, who will step down from the city’s leadership post next month.

“It will be a nice tribute to Mayor Jeannie Hefty who worked hard to put this all together,” Stauffacher said. “The foxes are observing people coming and going from the Burlington area and keeping an eye on us for safety.”

He also said the statues offer historical prominence because Burlington had been previously called Foxville in the 1800s.

“I think it epitomizes the old-time definition of Burlington as Foxville,” Stauffacher said. “The statues will be here for a long-time.”

He said the foxes, as well as the new bridge, are stellar improvements to the city.

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