116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
FORT DODGE — He started as a the result of a bet between two governors, then became a traveling football trophy, but now, Floyd of Rosedale has finally come home.
The 14-foot-tall hog sculpture was set into place — with the help of a massive crane — atop its base at the intersection of 10th Avenue North and 32nd Street this week.
Floyd of Rosedale was once an actual hog on the Rosedale Farm, just east of Fort Dodge and very near the current site of the sculpture.
His origin comes from a racial conflict between the all-white University of Minnesota football team and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, who had All-American running back Ozzie Simmons, one of the few Black players in major college football in 1934.
The Minnesota players singled put Simmons for some brutal hits on the way to winning the game.
Leading up to the 1935 game between the two rivals, the racial conflict began boiling again. To cool things down, Minnesota Gov. Floyd Olson bet Iowa Gov. Clyde Herring a live hog on the outcome of the game.
In the end, Minnesota won in a clean game, and the players from both schools complimented each other after it was over.
Then Herring was on the hook for a hog, so he turned to Allen Loomis, the owner of Rosedale Farms, for a hog. He named the pig Floyd in honor of the Minnesota governor.
“It’s a story that is unique, when you think of two governors who resolved a racial conflict with a pig,” said Fort Dodge City Council member Dave Flattery, who has led the sculpture project.
“A lot of us on the committee didn’t know about that element of the story, and we feel it’s a great story that needs to be remembered. The best way to do that is to symbolize it with a statue of Floyd.”
Mount Vernon artist
The sculpture was created by Mount Vernon artist Dale Merrill, who grew up right in the middle of Hawkeye country.
The Fort Dodge Public Art Commission sent out a call for submissions for a public art piece honoring Floyd of Rosedale in 2019.
Merrill said the call for submissions was “wide open,” but that the commission wanted clear concepts. He submitted his rendering of a Floyd of Rosedale concept, and it was the one the commission chose.
Merrill said his main goal with the design was to make sure the sculpture was recognizable as Floyd of Rosedale.
“My other inspiration was to be somewhat abstract, to convey the form of topography and the map and the layers representing the contours and the layers and the terracing and things that we have in the fields throughout the Midwest,” he said. “I grew up in Iowa and around farms, crops and pigs, and I really wanted to showcase something that represented the Midwest.”
After signing the contract to fabricate the sculpture in July 2020, Merrill went straight to work transforming his 2D rendering to a 3D model, and began design work to create the drawings of all the pieces to be laser cut.
“This year was tough because of COVID,” he said. “So supplies on the steel were drawn out and availability was slow. So we were able to work on him, it seemed like two or three months at a time and then we would have to wait for more material.”
The first parts were laser cut in October 2020, and Floyd was finally completed last week. Merrill said he received some assistance from his son, Kale, who works full-time in Merrill’s studio. His daughter, Remy, helped document the progress.
The sculpture is made of Cor-Ten steel, sometimes called “weathering steel,” Merrill said. The metal will build up its own protective oxide coating that will change color to a more reddish-brown and prevent corrosion.
Merrill said he’ll be visiting his sculpture to see how the steel’s oxidizing goes, and he said there are plans to illuminate the sculpture at night.
About $125,000 was raised for the project, and no tax money was used. Donors will be listed on a plaque at the site, Flattery said.