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Sarasota Chalk Festival founder Denise Kowal talks with the news media after appearing to pick up Legoman Jan. 26 in Venice. Photo courtesy of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office
Siesta Key Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 6 years ago

Observed: Legoman 'sprung' from custody, but public's questions remain

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

When the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office announced Jan. 26 that Legoman, also known as Ego Leonard, would be released from his 90-day “lock-up” in the property office, curiosity abounded regarding the identify of the “designee” who would be picking him up.

I think it’s safe to say that no one who has followed the Legoman saga was surprised that the designee was Denise Kowal, the Burns Square businesswoman who established the Chalk Festival. Tim Jaeger, one of the Sarasota Visual Art collaborators and an artist/organizer of the s/ART/q events, was the first person to connect Kowal to Legoman, albeit indirectly.

Jaeger did some research on the Internet to discover the link between Legoman and a Dutch artist named Leon Keer. A participant in the 2011 Chalk Festival, Keer and his team incorporated Legomen-like soldiers in a recreation of the Terracotta Army, a collection of third-century sculptures representing the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The ancient sculptures were found in 1974 by local farmers in China’s Lintong District.

The buzz that traveled from Siesta Public Beach across the county, then across the country, was louder than a Death Star-size hornets’ nest after Legoman was “discovered” early Oct. 25 on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Beach-walking regulars were agog as they beheld the 8-foot-tall fiberglass creature, whose green top was inscribed in white letters with the message, “No real than you are.”

Email flew to media outlets just before 8:15 a.m. that day from a person who called himself Jeff Hindman. It just so happened, Hindman reported, that Legoman was lying on the Siesta beach while he was out for a stroll.

Although some early-bird members of the news media did speak with the mysterious Mr. Hindman, I found his voicemail box full the first time I tried the number he had provided in the email. My subsequent attempts were equally unsuccessful — that day and every time thereafter when I tried it.

He didn’t reply to email requests for more information, either.

He also didn’t reply to Wendy Rose, the community affairs manager for the Sheriff’s Office, when she tried multiple times to reach him in advance of Legoman’s scheduled release.

The last time I can verify anyone speaking with the elusive Hindman was when he appeared Dec. 1, at the Sheriff’s Office, to pay the $25 deposit to ensure he could claim Legoman after the holding period was up. By the way, that period, Rose said, was necessitated by the fact that no one could produce documentation proving rightful ownership of Legoman.

Many people in the community anticipated Keer’s appearing at the Sheriff’s Office before the 2011 Chalk Festival began, to claim Legoman. Failing that, some of us thought Kowal herself might show up, with materials from Keer and his team, making it clear Legoman was part of a publicity stunt. Therefore, it was a bit of a letdown when the festival ended and Legoman remained in custody — in spite of Keer’s cryptic comments about the fiberglass creature.

I could understand his not wanting to haul Legoman through airport security on his way back to The Netherlands, but surely Keer could have arranged either for shipping Legoman home or for Legoman’s long-term lodging in Sarasota.

In a manner of speaking, though, perhaps the latter option is exactly what he did.

Although Kowal played coy with the news media Jan. 26, the fact that she picked up Legoman and indicated he would appear again underscored her involvement with his original sighting on Siesta Key.
After all, even though Legoman showed up just before Halloween, it’s safe to say few of us adults believed currents spirited him to our shore after a voyage around the world in the sea.

Kowal’s own voicemail box was full when I tried her number last week and again Monday. She wasn’t responding to email, either, about her plans for Legoman.

Yet, only Kowal at this point can answer the remaining whys regarding Legoman’s adventures in Sarasota. One day, I hope she will.

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