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Recalling a wager and a famous FD pig

Project featuring Floyd of Rosedale combines history, athletics and public art

-Messenger file photo
A replica of the Floyd of Rosedale trophy was on display during a Floyd of Rosedale groundbreaking ceremony in April 2019.

A new project will combine history, athletics and public art to preserve the legacy of Floyd of Rosedale.

The famous pig, given as a prize in 1935 in an attempt to diffuse racial tensions around a big football game, will be the subject of a new sculpture to be installed at the roundabout at 10th Avenue North and 32nd Street.

“The idea behind the pig, or Floyd, in the roundabout is to retain that legacy, and the story behind it,” said Fort Dodge Councilman Dave Flattery, who is on the Floyd of Rosedale Planning Committee. “This is arguably the most popular traveling trophy between Division I college football teams, Iowa and Minnesota.

“I don’t think the generations behind me know the story, and you want to retain that legacy,” he added. ”When you retain that legacy and that story, it builds pride in the community.”

There are a lot of sub-stories within the story of Floyd, Flattery said.

Not everyone realizes the pig was first wagered after a game with racial overtones, he said. All-American running back Ozzie Simmons, who played for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, was one of the few black players at the time and had been knocked out three times during a previous game against the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

“There’s a racial element to it — and there were tensions between both universities, but they settled it with a wager,” Flattery said. “And Floyd of Rosedale, the pig, was the wager.”

The story shows other celebrities’ connections to Fort Dodge.

“Ronald Reagan broadcast that game for WHO Radio. He is quoted somewhere saying that Ozzie Simmons was one of the best running backs he’d ever seen,” Flattery said.

That pig, which the governor of Iowa sent to the governor of Minnesota, grew up on the Rosedale Farms just east of today’s Rosedale Rapids, next to the roundabout which will soon hold the sculpture.

“We need to retain this legacy, this wonderful story, and what better way than to have public art, and what better location than the roundabout on 32nd Street which is within a quarter mile of the original Rosedale Farm?” Flattery said.

The Rosedale Farms that provided the pig also once supplied all the milk and dairy products to the creamery in downtown Fort Dodge, he said.

“It was a popular place,” said Flattery. “Even when I was young I remember the creamery. And I remember the farm.”

One of the first steps in starting the project was coordinating with both the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota, he said.

The committee said it’s looking for “unique, but sophisticated designs that contribute to the character of the community,” using the artist’s creative interpretation.

Any material can be used, although methods using metal such as bronze, steel, or recycled metal will be preferred. The sculpture should be between 10 and 20 feet in length, the committee wrote.

Qualified artists should have successfully managed and completed at least one publicly-funded commissioned project with a budget of $75,000 or more. The proposal must also take into account how the sculpture will withstand Iowa’s elements. Competitiveness of the budget will be considered.

“We’ll get a better handle on costs after we see the proposals,” Flattery said. “About $120,000 to $250,000 is the estimate.”

Flattery isn’t sure if there are any local artists who will submit proposals. Those with an art background on the committee, including Jennifer Dutcher and Eric Anderson, director of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, knew of a lot of potential people at the universities, he said.

“We probably sent it out to a dozen potential candidates throughout the Midwest and the United States,” Flattery said.

Eventually the roundabout may be renamed Rosedale Roundabout, Flattery said.

And the Rosedale committee still hopes to build a barn-shaped structure near the area, he said — a goal they’ve had for many years.

“The original thought was to build a replica barn and use it as a year-round shelter, and someday we might do that anyway out at the park,” he said. “But to give it more visibility, and less costly we hope, would be to build the pig in the middle of the roundabout.”

There’s already information up on a trailhead near Rosedale Rapids about the Floyd story. The barn could make more space for more information in the future.

“This story will flow from the roundabout to the park itself,” he said. “Hopefully over time we can talk about Ronald Reagan and Lili Damita. Right now our goal is just to get the pig set up.”

Lili Damita was the French-American actress and singer who was at first married to Errol Flynn. After divorcing him, she married to Al Loomis, who owned the Rosedale farm. She is buried in Fort Dodge’s Oakland Cemetery.

Installation of the sculpture is scheduled for fall of this year. The committee includes Flattery, Dutcher, Anderson, Hope Thier, Janece Valentine, Kelly Halsted, Jim Kersten, Shelly Bottorf, Councilman Terry Moehnke, and Kevin Twait.

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