NAUVOO, Ill. -- The towering statue, officially named Erik the Viking, always captures the attention of Brenda Adkisson's fifth-grade class.
"Looking at things around school, they decided he didn't look very good. He needs work, He's missing part of a foot, and the paint is coming off," Adkisson said. "We decided to see what we could do about raising some funds to get him fixed."
The goal is $7,000 for the restoration project, and an account has been set up at State Bank of Nauvoo to breathe new life into a landmark for the Nauvoo-Colusa school district.
"He's how we tell everybody where we are. We say look for the big Viking out front," Adkisson said.
"He's become such a symbol of our school. Even people who did not grow up here know who he is."
The June issue of See Nauvoo News said the 20-foot-tall Viking statues were produced by International Fiberglass in the mid-1960s as promotions for Viking Carpets.
By the mid-1970s, the company folded, and only about nine of the 12 or so produced are still known to exist.
Nauvoo's Viking originally stood at Rheinschmidt's Carpet Store in Burlington, Iowa, and was moved to Nauvoo-Colusa Junior High School in 1986.
Changes at the school after the elementary building closed now have the statue standing in the middle of the preschool and kindergarten play area.
"Due to construction that's going to happen at the school, he needs to be moved anyway. The new construction will block any view of him," Adkisson said. "We also need a new concrete pad under him wherever we decide to move him to."
Work already is underway at the school on a new secure entrance leading to the main office, and Superintendent Kent Young said work could begin this fall on a $310,000 multipurpose room, which should be ready for the start of the 2020-21 school year.
The school district will use money from its operations and maintenance fund for the security project and issue working cash bonds for the building addition which will ease crowded conditions in the building's sole gym. But the district doesn't have money to spend on the beloved Viking, leaving the restoration project up to the public.
"It's pretty awesome," Young said. "People are quite proud of it."
The Viking already had some restoration work done several years ago after a prank.
"High school kids as a prank thought they would try to pull him down. They put a chain around his leg, and all they succeeded in doing was pulling his knee and ripping a hole in him," Adkisson said. "He was fixed at that point, but he needs a makeover again."
According to a story in the March 2019 edition of Illinois Country Living Magazine, the statues were made from molds and must be pieced together – two arms, the torso, the legs and the head.
Restoration work begins by taking the statues apart for transport, then "any damaged fiberglass gets repaired and any weak areas are reinforced," the story said.
"The giant gets sanded down through five to 10 layers of paint to what is called the gel coat, the first layer put into the original mold when the giant was made. Once that's done, the giant is primed, painted with auto paint and then covered with a clear coat to help preserve the paint."
Keeping an eye on the process, whenever it happens, will be Nauvoo-Colusa's students.
"They think he's pretty cool," Adkisson said.