The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Chamber credits community with saving Hiawatha


October 5, 2019

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe

Nancy and Peter Sturgul hold separate ends of a ribbon that was just cut by Ironwood Area Chamber of Commerce Director Michael Meyer, left, and Ironwood City Commission member Rick Semo, in a re-dedication ceremony to acknowledge the community support for the recently completed renovation of the 50-foot Hiawatha statute that has stood in a park on Burma Road since 1964.


Ironwood - The Hiawatha renovation was officially concluded Friday with a rededication ceremony and ribbon-cutting by the Ironwood Area Chamber of Commerce, which owns the 50-foot statue on Burma Road.

"About 50 years ago I stood and watched the statue being put in place," said Ironwood City Commission member Rick Semo. "It was an amazing sight. For years Hiawatha has overlooked the town and has been a symbol of this area."

Semo said the fundraising campaign to save the statue is another example of how the Ironwood community pulls together "time after time." Another local treasure was saved because people cared, he said.

"This is just one more example," Semo said.

Around 30 members of the community attended the rededication. Chamber director Michael Meyer was present with volunteers Nancy and Peter Sturgul, who started a $27,000 fundraising effort three years ago together with John Rudberg, who was not able to attend.

"When I came to the chamber, the board said Hiawatha needs help," Meyer said. "That was the start of a three-year process of raising funds and finding a competent company to restore the statue and get it ready to face several more decades overlooking Ironwood."

Meyer said the dedication acknowledged the efforts that led to the summer renovation of the fiberglass replica of the legendary Native American chief that was first installed by the chamber in 1964. It was fortunate that FAST Corporation of Sparta, Wisconsin, the only Midwest company that still builds and repairs fiberglass structures, was able to perform the specialty work, he said.

Peter Sturgul said he recalled how he and Rudberg started the campaign and that donations grew quickly with advertising and online accounts and after his wife, Nancy, put the social media outreach together.

"We should be in good shape for a lot of years to come," Sturgul said.

The fire department could possibly take on the roll of conducting an annual wash down of the statue, he said. A wash of the clear coat cover should help the statue last for decades, he said.

The miniature enclosed statue of Hiawatha was placed in the local visitors center along with brochures, Sturgul said. This will help direct more people to the Hiawatha statue, he said.

"The mission of the statue was to bring people into Ironwood, and into our community," he said. "So I hope that continues and I hope this works."

Nancy Rudolph was also present to talk about how her late father-in-law Charlie Gotta Sr., a chamber member, was instrumental in bringing the Hiawatha idea to life as a tourism driver for Ironwood. She said her late husband, Charlie Gotta Jr., led a 2004 renovation and she hopes the more modern materials used this year will last much longer.


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