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No bull, that's a big frog

By ANNE LINDBERG
Published May 16, 2007


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The giant frog brought motorists to a halt.

Many drivers pulled over to the side of the road on 72nd Avenue N last week to get a closer look at the green fiberglass critter parked in front of J & J Auto Body and Paint Inc.

"I couldn't believe the attention this little froggy was getting, " J & J co-owner Mike Pericles said Tuesday.

A few drivers even offered to buy the oversized amphibian, but Pericles could not sell it. Kermit, as Pericles calls him, belongs to the city of Pinellas Park.

It'll be at his shop for the next couple of weeks for some body and tongue work.

Kermit is a familiar figure to children who frequent the Polliwog Pond, also known as the wading pool at Skyview Pool. For the past seven years, Kermit sat placidly at the water's edge while children climbed the steps in his rear end and slid down his pink tongue to splash into the pool.

But the years have been rough on Kermit. His tongue is cracked and flaking. His green paint is a bit faded. And his brown spots need some brightening, as do his brown eyes.

A few weeks ago, city workers decided he needed to be replaced. They unscrewed him and took him to the warehouse with the idea of selling him as surplus equipment.

City Manager Mike Gustafson thought about putting in a bid. Gustafson wanted to give Kermit a new home by the pond behind his house.

Then last week, after Pinellas Park officials discovered a new slide would cost about $10, 000, they decided to see whether Kermit could be refurbished. They called J & J.

"I'm figuring (it's) one of these little concrete things, " Pericles said. Then, he saw Kermit, which is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Pericles decided to take on the challenge, partly in memory of Jim Hernan, the founder of J & J. Hernan died a year ago this month at age 51.

"Jim would paint anything, " Pericles said. "If it needed to be painted, he would paint it."

That included appliances, airplane wings and an umbrella case that someone wanted painted to match a BMW.

"I thought, 'I gotta be just like Jim, ' " Pericles said.

So the city loaded up Kermit and took him to J & J, which sat him atop a wheeled stand so he can be moved easily.

"I think it's going to be a fun project, " Pericles said of the $2, 500 job.

He estimated the actual work, which includes sanding, painting and airbrushing eyes and warts onto Kermit, should take about a week of constant work. Because the work won't be done all at once, Kermit will likely stay at J & J for another two or three weeks before returning to the Polliwog Pond.

[Last modified May 15, 2007, 23:53:52]


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