Hormel Plaza project lands $100,000

Published 9:44 am Friday, April 3, 2009

It’s the home of the Cedar River, Canada geese and trees still waiting for spring.

In the future, though, Austin’s Bandshell Park may be the home of a bronze statue honoring the lives of George A. Hormel, founder of the Hormel Foods Corporation, his wife Lillian and their son Jay.

The project is in the works through the George A. Hormel Plaza committee, co-chaired by Gretchen Ramlo of Spruce Up Austin Inc. and former Austin mayor Bonnie Rietz.

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It was the brainchild of Denny Maschka, the parks and recreation director who died last June, and is slated to feature a bronze life-size sculpture of the Hormels, a pathway and pieces of granite, also called pavers, along the pathway with the names of people who donate to the project.

“It’s going to be a real signature piece, and it’s going to be a wonderful spot where people can come to see the statue of George, Lillian and Jay, and then stroll along the path and see the pavers where people have donated and then see the beauty in the trees and the grass,” Rietz said.

The project is estimated to cost $500,000 and received a big boost this week when the Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry board unanimously approved $100,000 in funds for the effort.

The funds are part of the trust of the late Lydia Lien, a long-time Austin resident who gave more than $200,000 to parks and rec last year for the beautification of Austin’s parks, specifically for the Mill Pond and Bandshell areas.

“It’s just really exciting to have the parks and rec board make that decision,” Ramlo said, who also sits on that board.

Rietz said a fundraising effort for the Hormel Plaza will kick off this summer with the sale of the pavers, which she said will be priced at roughly $300 each.

Jeff Anderson of Anderson Memorials is designing the project and estimated the pavers will measure eight inches by about 20 inches.

In addition, the project will also feature several smaller monuments along the pathway honoring roughly eight areas, including the Hormel Foundation, as well as local business, agriculture and philanthropy as a way to tie in Hormel to the rest of the community. Project officials expect it to include finishing the nearby veterans memorial in honor of Hormel’s support for the military.

“It’s going to add a lot to the area where it’s going and to the community,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be another thing we have for the city of Austin. It’ a beautiful site, very accessible, but very private, so it’s going to be very nice.”

Bandshell Park is located at Fourth Street and Ninth Place and borders south Main Street, the same street the Spam Museum is located.

“It’s going to be a real nice place to come and stroll and look at the history of our community,” Rietz said.

Anderson said the project could break ground as early as this summer and depending on funding, could be completed by the Fourth of July, 2011.