John Lopez creating unique cowboy walleye sculpture for Mobridge

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MOBRIDGE, S.D. A sculpture of a cowboy riding a walleye may seem a little odd, but some Mobridge women say it captures the essence of their town. Bring in sculptor John Lopez from Lemmon and that idea becomes a reality.

The unique sculpture idea has been in the works since 2006 by the Mobridge Centennial Committee.

"We decided that it should be a walleye because we have good fishing here and a cowboy because we have a wonderful rodeo here over the 4th of July," Former Mobridge Centennial Committee Co-Chair Donna Syverson said.

"Initially some different people in my family were like, 'you're not gonna do that are you?' but I thought, you know, that's kind of a cool idea. It's kind of a challenge," Lopez said.

After a recent city contest to name the "Street To Nowhere," the perfect location was found off of Main Street.

"I won the contest with 'Walleye Way,' so when I went to receive my certificate, I told them I thought we should have the walleye being ridden by a cowboy on Walleye Way," Syverson said.

Syverson, Sheila Unterseher and Fay Jackman started talking about getting Lopez to do the sculpture, which he agreed on. He gave the women a price of $40,000 -- a bargain considering most of his pieces start at around $65,000.

"First thing we did is we had to get a down payment and so we decided we'd ask 100 people for $100," Jackman said. "The coffee group started it out and they were really generous and we got several $1,000 donations. So when we got $10,000, we sent him a check!"

Since the project came together in the fall last year, the women have gotten enough donations to pay for half of the sculpture or $20,000. They plan on sending another $5,000 this week.

The whole process takes an average of 6 months to complete. First, Lopez creates a mock sculpture out of wax and sends photos of that to the client. The wax is easy to manipulate when warmed up, so things can be changed if needed. Then, the sculpture is created out of scrap metal donated by friends and family.

"It's stuff that everyone has in their scrap pile, but the cowboy's face and hands I sculpted those in wax and I sent them to the foundry down in Loveland, Colorado. They cast them in bronze and then sent them back to me," Lopez said.

The cowboy walleye sculpture will have a few personal twists on it.

"The cowboy's got a champion buckle on it and it says the Sitting Bull Stampede and then on the back of the cowboy, he's got a number 1 on him and that also says Sitting Bull Stampede on it," Lopez said.

The sculpture hopes to be complete before the Sitting Bull Stampede Rodeo over the 4th of July. The three women will put together a pamphlet after that for anyone visiting Mobridge to see all the works of art around town.

If you want to donate to the sculpture, you can send your checks to:

Mobridge Public Art Fund
1925 West Grand Crossing
Mobridge, SD 57601

If you want to visit the sculpture before the unveiling, John Lopez can meet anyone at his art studio called Kokomo Inn. You can find more contact information on the two links to the right of the article.