The bronze statue of President Bill Clinton could be back at the corner of St. Joseph and Seventh streets sometime next week, following a visit to a Hill City foundry for repairs, according to Dallerie Davis of the City of Presidents Committee.
The 42nd president's likeness, part of downtown Rapid City's series of presidential sculptures, was somehow knocked off its base in the pre-dawn hours of Thanksgiving Day. Police found the statue on the ground shortly before 5:30 a.m.
"It's really pretty much a mystery. No clues whatsoever," Davis said of how the Clinton statue was knocked over. "Aliens? That's about the only thing I could think of."
Sgt. Cliff Peterson of the Rapid City Police Department doubts law enforcement will ever know who pushed over the statue, but he's got his own theory: an intoxicated person.
"There's no way we're ever going to find out who pushed it over," Peterson said. "Those things attract a lot of interaction."
During the day, that means tourists who enjoy the presidential statues, but Peterson has often noticed late night bar patrons who sit on or hang off the statues.
Because of the way the statues — which weigh between 300 and 500 pounds each — are attached to the concrete sidewalk, Peterson is not entirely convinced it was vandalism. A large intoxicated person who lost balance while leaning into the statue might have caused it, he suggested.
"It got knocked over, either accidental or intentional," Peterson said. "I'm not going to tell them how to mount their statues, but it almost seems like there's got to be a better way of doing it."
The presidential statues are installed according to industry standards for outdoor sculptures, said Kristen Donnan Standard of Black Hills Bronze in Hill City. Large nuts are welded to the inside of the sculpture and all-thread metal posts are then inserted into holes in the cement sidewalk and set with epoxy.
Donnan Standard said the Clinton statue arrived Friday morning with a dent in its right back shoulder and broken welds to its armature that looked like an intentional act of vandalism to her.
"It's not a dent that you would get if you just fell on the sidewalk. He's got an injury that indicates blunt force of some kind," she said. "It was hit by something heavy, that's all we can say."
The dent can be repaired, but if vandalism was to become a recurrent problem with the statues, the current method of installation might have to be re-evaluated, she said. "It's disheartening to see it damaged," Donnan Standard said. The only way a person might accidentally tip over a bronze statue is if the integrity of the armature had previously been compromised in some way, she said.
The foundry hopes to have Clinton back in downtown Rapid City soon. "We will squeeze him into our Christmas rush and get him back there as soon as possible," she said.