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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: -1.0° F  Fair
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The Statue of Liberty goes for another dip in Lake Mendota in 2010
Isn't she lovely
For full size, click gallery, above.

In February, Madison's iconic Statue of Liberty is returning to Lake Mendota. First displayed as a UW student-government prank in 1979, the submerged-looking Lady Liberty has returned to Lake Mendota only three times, in 1980, 1996 and 2009. It also appeared near the Alliant Energy Center in 2004.

"The face that launched a thousand postcards" is now owned by the Hoofers outing clubs, part of the Wisconsin Union Directorate. A volunteer committee is at work, planning for its appearance Feb. 7 through 15, during Hoofers' Winter Carnival.

"We're hoping for an easier time this year," says Paul Davidsaver, Hoofers council president. "There was a lot of restoration that needed to be done last year. We ended up getting it in pieces in the UW's Stock Pavilion."

The fingers holding the torch still need to be restored, and there was some wear and tear taking the statue apart last winter. One big challenge will not be repeated, however: figuring out how to put the gigantic 3-D puzzle together.

"Last year we had no idea," says Davidsaver. "There were no instructions. But we have the people and the resources now to understand how it assembles." Ald. Bridget Maniaci, Hoofers sailing club vice commodore last year, helped lead the effort to return the statue in 2009 and tracked down alumni who created it.

"It does require a couple truckloads with the biggest U-Haul we can rent," says Davidsaver, an undergraduate majoring in political science and legal studies. He estimates that the gigantic head is made up of around 30 to 40 pieces.

"It takes a ton of volunteers," he adds. "The torch is the hardest part, because it's a giant metal piece that we have to hand-crank up. The ice is never thick enough for us to put a crane on it. The rest of it is just giant foam blocks. They look pretty heavy, but in reality they're pretty light."

As for the benefits of creating a temporary communal art installation, he says, "I think the statue is something that just helps build memories." Davidsaver, beleaguered during exam week, also notes that the work helps keep him sane.

But the statue offers another unique benefit to those who literally carry its torch. "One of my best memories from last year was sleeping inside the statue," he says. "We actually had about 10 people in there. We joke around that it's a statue apartment. So it's not going to help me with my majors per se, but it helps me with my friendships."

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