Sock monkeys stricken with 'weak bolt syndrome'

Rockford’s public art display has taken a few hits in recent weeks as three famous sock monkeys have fallen. “J. Nelson Pollock,” “Paperboy,” and “Rockford’s Symbol” monkeys have crashed as a result of wear and tear of the weak bolts holding them up.

J. Nelson Pollock, the monkey that once sat in the downtown mall, was the first one to fall after kids had been climbing on its frame and its bolts eventually gave way. This sock monkey is one of the most historic of all, as it’s named after John Nelson, Rockford’s great inventor whose company, Nelson Knitting, was the first in the world to commercially manufacture red-heeled socks that were eventually used to make the famous monkey dolls.

Joan Sage, director of marketing and development for the sock monkey project, said: “The J. Nelson Pollock monkey just needed a little mouth make-over. After his fall, he had a few scrapes on his face that needed a few repairs and touch ups.”

Paperboy, the sock monkey that once stood in front of the Rockford Register Star, took his fall about a week ago and the Symbol monkey, the orange monkey that was modeled after the Rockford Symbol, just toppled over as lunch-goers eating in the downtown mall looked on.

The three fallen monkeys were in the shop being repaired and were expected to be restored and returned to their designated locations by Friday, July 29.

“We have redesigned the bases of the monkeys and replaced the half-inch bolts with a stronger, more durable, three-quarter-inch bolt and figured out how to get the bolts in place so this won’t happen with the other ones,” Sage said.

According to Dean Vosburgh of Fibre Techual Inc., who has been repairing each of the fallen monkeys, the mounting brackets on the tail and arms have also been changed so they are more durable against the wear and tear of climbing.

“Kids were playing where they shouldn’t have been, but we certainly don’t want to take this away; it is a beautiful public art display, and it creates a lot of foot traffic on the mall,” Sage said. “There has been talk of putting fences around them, but we don’t want it to come to that. People have been having fun having their picture taken with them, and fences would just ruin their whole appeal.”

The sock monkey project began this past April at the Sock Monkey Festival. Barbara Gerry, great-granddaughter of John Nelson, thought of the idea of the public art display of larger-than-life sock monkeys.

“We had always wanted to do some kind of public art display like Chicago had done with the cows some years ago, but it wasn’t until Barbara came to us with this idea that it really took off,” Sage said. “Originally, we wanted to do horses, but that the sock monkeys really celebrate Rockford, so it was perfect.”

All 18 sock monkeys are being sponsored by Rockford businesses and are designed by local artists. The public display ends in late October, and the sock monkeys will be either kept by their sponsor or auctioned off to the public.

“We are so happy that everyone is enjoying them so much, so we may be doing a display again like this next year,” Sage said. “Our goal is to have new contracts for all new monkeys signed by Dec. 1 and our maps of where they will be located by early spring time. We want to get the word out quickly so everybody is eligible.”

From the Aug. 3-9, 2005, issue

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