Iconic Fontana frog gets refurbished
By Dave Fidlin
After years of neglect, it seemed all but certain an iconic 14-foot frog structure along Highway 67 was about to croak.
But the more than life-size replica in Fontana has since received a second lease on life, thanks to a few local organizers who hopped into action.
In August, local businessman John Karabas used social media to share the peril of the behemoth structure, which had been vandalized and weathered in its more than 50 years of existence.
“There had been this talk about it being an eyesore and people wanting to get rid of it,” Karabas said. “It had become chipped and faded. I wanted to let people know about what might happen.”
The response in support of the amphibian was astounding and surprising.
Karabas, who operates Pie High Pizza near the frog, received hundreds of comments on his business’ Facebook page in support of restoring the structure.
“There are a lot of people who come up here from Chicago and other areas of Illinois, and they remember seeing that frog,” said Karabas, who opened his eatery in Fontana a year-and-a-half ago after running similar operations in the Windy City.
In the past few months, Karabas said he heard an assortment of stories from people who connect with the structure – some linking it to their youth and summer trips to Fontana and others appreciating it for its unique, kitschy nature.
Weird and well-known
The concrete structure is a lone remnant of Frog Hollow, a fireworks store and miniature golf course that once operated on the site but ceased to exist decades ago.
The frog is included in “Weird Wisconsin,” a book that looks at some of the state’s most unique landmarks.
Considered by the authors to be one of Wisconsin’s best kept secrets, the frog has brought a new round of tourists into the village after the book’s release.
After witnessing the groundswell of support in favor of saving the structure, Karabas began raising funds to ensure the frog could continue greeting residents and visitors along a heavily traveled corridor.
He held a fundraiser at his restaurant one night, with proceeds going toward the cost of bringing the concrete amphibian back to its former glory.
Restoring the frog was undertaken by Stan Fairchild, owner of Walworth-based Fairchild Exteriors. He donated his expertise and materials, and the work is nearly complete. A finishing touch – installating a bench near the structure – is in the works.
Fairchild’s improvements included rehabilitation to the concrete and masonry that make up the structure. A number of cosmetic touch-ups were also done.
Karabas said he is pleased to know the frog will continue to exist into the immediate future.
“There had been talk about people moving it somewhere else, but that’s not going to happen,” Karabas said. “This thing was built into the ground, so the only way to remove it is to destroy it. I’m glad that won’t be happening.”