Car-sized croaker gets some drivers all hopped up

Published May 19, 2007

PINELLAS PARK - The giant frog brought motorists to a halt.

Many drivers pulled over to the side of the road on 72nd Avenue N recently 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.

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 a couple of weeks for some 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, children have 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 faded.

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

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.

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.

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

So the city took Kermit 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.

The work, - sanding, painting and airbrushing eyes and warts - will take about a week of constant work done over a few weeks.