Ten years ago to mark IPFW’s 40th anniversary, various artists, financed by businesses and organizations, lined the streets downtown with 102 big mastodons, each one uniquely decorated.
In the decade since, a lot of the statues have gone missing. University officials say they know where about half of the beasts are, but the whereabouts of the rest are unknown.
And until Monday, the missing included one originally financed by Chuck Surack, president and founder of Sweetwater Sound.
Surack’s mastodon fit right in with his business. Dubbed Bigga Hunka Love, the mastodon was a tribute to Elvis, complete with the hairstyle, long sideburns and a star-studded jumpsuit.
University officials say that once he financed the artwork, he put it up for auction. A lot of the mastodons were sold that way, and the proceeds went to the United Way.
Apparently, though, Surack’s mastodon wasn’t bought. It just disappeared, and just where it’s been for the last 10 years isn’t clear.
A few years ago, though, Surack began to wonder what happened to his mastodon. He snooped around a little bit, but the 4-foot-tall, 6-foot-long statue was well hidden.
Someone apparently did discover Surack was interested in retrieving his mastodon and offered to help him out.
A stranger called him and told him that for $5,000 he’d tell him where the artwork was.
Surack wasn’t interested in that. He’d paid for the mastodon to begin with, he said. Why should he pay to get it back?
For about the past two years, nothing changed. Surack said he’d look for it once in a while, but not really hard. He had other priorities.
Not long ago, though, university officials made a discovery.
Some of those mastodons are still on the IPFW campus. Once in a while, if they’re in the way, they’ll get moved.
Somewhere along the line, and nobody’s sure when or how, Surack’s mastodon turned up in the clubhouse of the university’s student housing.
The statue, though, was showing its age.
The university tracked down the artist who had originally designed the Elvis-themed mastodon. She repaired it, covering up scratches, replacing some long-lost stars and giving it a new scarf.
Then, on Monday, IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein and a couple of IPFW deans called a meeting with Surack, reportedly to discuss legitimate business.
What Surack didn’t know is that after they entered Sweetwater’s offices, the mastodon wasn’t far behind.
When Surack emerged from the meeting, what should he discover at the end of the hall but his long-lost mastodon, restored compliments of IPFW.
So Bigga Hunka Love has finally made it home.
Surack’s job now, though, is to find out where to put it. It is a little out of place in the middle of Sweetwater’s lobby.
Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.