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Release of 'wild fish' Friday could be big catch for art lovers

The fisherman in "Willie Ketchmie" by Randy Young of Spicer may have caught the one that he should have let get away. Young's creation is one of three fish near the Spicer Dairy Queen. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)1 / 2
The fisherman in "Willie Ketchmie" by Randy Young of Spicer, above and top of page, may have caught the one that he should have let get away. Young's creation is one of three fish near the Spicer Dairy Queen. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)2 / 2

SPICER -- All summer long, colorful fish with copper fins, pink protruding lips and swirls of scales decorated with everything from glass beads, leather, post cards and paint have made a big splash in Spicer.

The community's "Fish Gone Wild" project comes to a close Friday when the 22 original fish sculptures will be auctioned off during a public event that includes live music, food vendors, wine bar and homemade fish cookies, which are -- in case anyone was worried -- cookies made in the shape of fish and not cookies made from fish.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Glacial Ridge Winery, located on state Highway 23 between Spicer and New London, with music by the Green Lake Bluegrass Band.

The fish will be available for viewing at that time and the top three "people's choice" winners will be announced. Votes for the winners were cast when the fish were unveiled during an evening event in May that drew 500 people to the shore of Green Lake.

The auction of individual fish sculptures begins at 7 p.m., with international auctioneer winner Kristine Fladeboe-Duininck calling the auction.

The project, which was initiated by the Spicer Beautification Committee, received support from the Willmar Area Arts Council, Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council and individual donors.

Area artists were solicited to participate in the project. They were each given a wooden cut-out of a fish and given the freedom to decorate it as they pleased.

The finished pieces of art were placed throughout Spicer in parks and green spaces near businesses during the summer, attracting a constant stream of visitors.

"Oh my gosh, every time you drive by there's people looking at them," said Sandy Saulsbury, who proposed the wild fish idea after she and her husband, Jim, saw a similar project in Alaska.

When the initial grant was written, Saulsbury said they estimated 1,000 people would view the project. She now said more than 10,000 people have seen, and appreciated, the fish.

Amazingly, none of the sculptures was vandalized during the summer. Signs that warned people not to touch the fish because they could bite may have discouraged some harm, but Saulsbury credits community pride and ownership.

"Many different hands were in this. That's what's fun about it," she said. "It was the whole community."

Artists will receive a percentage of the proceeds when their fish are auctioned off Friday. The Spicer Beautification Committee will keep the remaining revenue to use for a future city project that's yet to be determined.

For more information call the Spicer city office at 320-796-5562 or the Willmar Area Arts Council at 320-231-8560.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750