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Amherst’s stolen pig statue returns, worse for wear

  • Pig-a-sus, the Fiberglas pig stolen Aug. 29 from a playground on Cowls Road, made its way back to the North Amherst neighborhood last weekend. CONTRIBUTED/ABEL LENZ

  • Pig-a-sus, the Fiberglas pig stolen Aug. 29 from a playground on Cowls Road, made its way back to the North Amherst neighborhood this weekend SUBMITTED PHOTO/ABEL LENZ

  • Pig-a-sus, the Fiberglas pig stolen Aug. 29 from a playground on Cowls Road, made its way back to the North Amherst neighborhood this weekend SUBMITTED PHOTO/ABEL LENZ



Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2021

AMHERST — Its left ear is now bandaged and part of its back also got pretty banged up, but Pig-a-sus, the Fiberglas pig stolen Aug. 29 from a playground on Cowls Road, made its way back to the North Amherst neighborhood.

The pig statue that had been part of the Wonderland playground, attached to a bench and which children could ride on, was returned early Friday morning.

The Mill District playground, which features several Fiberglas animals, is frequented by families who live there or who visit to shop and eat.

The previous Sunday night, the large pig was stolen, with the theft captured on surveillance cameras showing six young men removing it and loading it into an SUV. The pig is estimated to weigh 400 pounds and is filled with cement and mounted on rebar.

“They have taken away something that is beloved for parents, grandparents and children and grandchildren to play on and hang out with,” said Tony Maroulis, vice president of Real Estate and Community Development for W.D. Cowls Inc.

Soon, posters were being distributed reading “pig-napped!!!” showing the pig wearing a Pride Month ballcap reading “different rules” and with a rainbow-colored brim. The Mill District website and Facebook page also had information about the theft, which many believe was carried out by college students, based on the surveillance footage.

Hannah Rechtschaffen, director of placemaking and special projects for W.D. Cowls, said the pig’s disappearance was devastating for a place that tries to be a champion of students and building community.

“We know this is not reflective of all students, only the students who don’t grasp that they are part of something bigger,” Rechtschaffen said. “This behavior is not welcome.”

“The bottom line is we’d like it back. It does mean something to a lot of people,” Rechtschaffen said.

W.D. Cowls President Cinda Jones, who purchased the pig at the Brimfield Fair, said she is making investments in Amherst to provide more housing opportunities.

“We do not condemn and vilify all college students, but we will condemn and vilify the students who took Pig-a-Sus,” Jones said.

The pig’s return brings partial closure to the incident. In a Mill District Facebook post, recognition is offered to those who offered thoughts on the pig.

“Thank you to the outpouring of love and sympathy. We so appreciate the photos, emails, and notes from his friends and neighbors.”

But the post also noted the uncertainty about whether the “beloved character” can be reinstalled, or whether a twin may have to be found.

Last year, a Fiberglas sheep was also stolen from the playground, but was found a day or so later in a nearby rental apartment. Jones opted to remain quiet at the time and not give the incident publicity, even though three of the four legs were broken off the sheep.

“Now I wonder if we should make examples of things like this that happen,” Jones said.

Street signs and other items have periodically ended up in dorm rooms and off-campus housing, but public art has typically been less susceptible to theft. In 2012, though, a concrete resin rabbit sculpture called “August Rabbit,” created by Lee Hutt of Holyoke, sat atop a large rock at Kendrick Park and was planned as the first installation of a natural children’s playground at the downtown green.

Less than a week after it was put there, the 20-pound artwork attached to the stone with stainless steel rods and epoxy was stolen and was never recovered.