In the spirit of keeping up the ruse established by Pail and Shovel Party leaders Leon Varjian and Jim Mallon ’79, we’ll start by saying that she’s made of copper, of course! How else would she get her signature sea-foam-green hue? If we’re being honest, Lady Liberty swaps her oxidized duds for something a little lighter to make her yearly appearance in Madison. She first surfaced on Lake Mendota in February 1979 as a plywood frame covered in chicken wire, papier-mâché, and muslin cloth, but arson sent the structure up in flames. Despite this unseasonably warm welcome, she returned to the lake’s frozen surface in 1980 and 1981 fashioned from fireproof Styrofoam. After 1981, the state’s regulations for removing structures on the ice sent the statue into hibernation in a nearby storage facility, but even this was not enough protection from the elements — this time, a tornado left Lady Liberty in need of repair. In 1995, an anonymous donor made a gift to have her torch and crown restored. The Styrofoam Lady of the Lake made her way back onto the ice in 1996 and was last seen in 2010, according to Wisconsin Union communications director Shauna Breneman. In 2018, ahead of the 40th anniversary of the statue’s campus debut, then-president of the Wisconsin Union Mills Botham ’19 joined colleagues in partnering with Minnesota-based Landmark Creations to design an inflatable version of the iconic statue to present at the 2019 Winter Carnival. This latest iteration of the legendary campus prank is made of a dye-sublimated, polyester-blend fabric that takes up far less storage space and inflates in as few as seven minutes. Moral of the story: when it comes to having fun with inflatables on the lake, where there’s a Wisconsin Badger, there’s a way — even if the lake is frozen solid.
Making Lady Liberty
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