Nick Engelbert

Funds raised at Saturday's "summer picnic" at Grandview near Hollandale will be used to restore Nick Englebert's sculpture of Uncle Sam driving a donkey and an elephant. 

Nick Englebert was a celebrity in his day.

An Austrian immigrant, Nick eventually wound up in little Hollandale, the small community on Highway 39 on the way from New Glarus to Mineral Point, where he bought a little farm just west of the village and turned it into what became known as Grandview, where he exhibited more than 40 sculptures that he had made to honor the many nationalities and cultures that had settled Wisconsin's southwest.

Nick was regularly featured in The Capital Times in the '50s and '60s and into the '70s even after this death. He was hailed as a great artist and one of the area's most colorful figures.

When he turned 70 and sculpting became too hard physically, he turned to painting. One of The Capital Times' stories called him the "happy painter," producing 200 oils before his death in 1962.

The statues he had crafted earlier and displayed on his lawn depicted the history of the people who settled in and around Hollandale -- the Norwegians who cleared the land, the Irish who built the railroad, the Swiss who brought cheesemaking and dairy cattle to the state.

His home, called Grandview, is itself a work of art. It is covered with inlaid shards of china, glass, beads, buttons and sea shells.

The Pecatonica Educational Charitable Foundation now owns the property and has worked hard to restore the sculptures plus has opened a museum of Nick's artifacts and paintings.

This Saturday, the 23rd, the foundation is holding a "summer picnic" at Grandview from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in an effort to raise funds to restore one of Nick Engelbert's iconic sculptures, one that drew the attention of then President Dwight Eisenhower. It depicted Uncle Sam trying to drive an elephant and a donkey.

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"Can anybody do a day's work with a team like that?" a plaque asked -- a sure sign that the two parties had trouble seeing eye to eye back in Ike's day as well. The sculpture is badly in need of repairs, something the foundation hopes to correct in the year ahead.

Saturday's picnic will include a tour of Grandview, classroom activities for the kids, wood-fired pizza in the newly constructed brick pizza oven and, of course, live music.

The organizers are asking a $25 donation at the door. More information can be obtained by sending an email to rickyr@mhtc.net.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.