A Fish Named Lou
One of the most notable attractions of J.F. Jacobson Park is a giant fiberglass cod fish that welcomes visitors coming to Madison.
Two Madison Chamber members, Dick Jackson and Scotty Kuehl, suggested to the Madison City Council on Dec. 8, 1982, that Madison should be named the Lutefisk Capital of the United States. As part of this project, a large fish symbol was ordered from F.A.S.T. Corporation in Sparta, Wisc. The 25-foot-long cod was constructed from fiberglass and sealed with a special finish using Dupont acrylics. The Madison Chamber of Commerce funded the total cost of the project, $8,000 for the base, artwork at the landscaping, with shortterm help from the city.
The fish, later named Lou T. Fisk, was officially dedicated at a ceremony held on June 23, 1983. Lou paraded through the streets of Madison to the Jacobson Park, where he still holds court. Lou’s dedication was featured on many media sources including Jim Klobuchar’s column in the Star Tribune, the Boone and Erickson Show on WCCO and KFGO Radio, KSTP and KCMT TV, and the Associated Press wire service. An advertising campaign placed large billboards at Morris,Wheaton, Pipestone and Olivia inviting visitors to come to Madison – the Lutefisk Capital of the United States – to see Lou and enjoy the town.
Designed to be placed on a travel trailer, Lou became an ambassador for Madison at parades and events around the country. However, even greater adventures awaited Lou! An entourage, including Dave and Pilla Wasberg, Dick Jackson and Steve Townly, all former Madison residents, took Lou T. Fisk on a tour of the country, especially for the observance of President James Madison’s 236th birthday. These events kicked-off the 200th year celebration of the U.S. Constitution. Stops were made at cities and places named Madison in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and New York with the final stop at Madison, Connecticut. Lou’s fame spread on this trip with media coverage including all of the wire services, CBS and NBC National Television (with a later segment on the Today Show from Madison), the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, and more.
In June of 2003, Lou was removed from his pedestal and taken to Sparta, Wisconsin where employees of the F.A.S.T. Corporation, who originally designed and manufactured him, gave Lou a face lift and a new paint job. In the early morning hours of July 31, 2008, Lou was knocked off his pedestal by a historic windstorm packing sustained winds of more than 100 mph. Lou was once again taken to Sparta, Wisconsin for intensive rehab and reconstructive surgery lasting about six months. He was released and returned to his pedestal, where he continues to welcome visitors. The Madison Area Chamber of Commerce privately funded his renovation and he is in tip-top shape to greet visitors to Madison as they approach our fair city on south Highway 75. Stop and say hello to Lou!