For eight months he stood by himself in the dark and abandoned old Forest Lake City Hall, with his arms outstretched waiting for somebody to hug. On Wednesday, Charlie Brown finally rejoined the rest of the world.
Joe Gullerud and Scott Fulweiler took only an hour to haul the 5-foot-tall, 450-pound statue of the famous "Peanuts" character several miles down the road to the Hardwood Creek branch of the Washington County library, also in Forest Lake, where Charlie will stand along a panel of glass and greet everyone who walks his way.
“You can definitely identify with Charlie Brown. He’s like every man and gal; he’s lovable,” said the artist who painted him, Amanda Engquist DePhillips. “His story always, in the end, makes you feel like a part of the bigger world.”
This Charlie, like the 101 others that were deployed around the Twin Cities in 2001 as part of a “Charlie Brown Around Town” promotion, started as a clay-colored blank slate. Engquist DePhillips was working for the St. Paul Convention and Visitors Bureau when “I raised my hand very high and lobbied to paint Charlie Brown.”
The theme she chose was “Charlie Brown Welcomes the World.” She painted 18 flags around his midriff in the familiar zigzag pattern to indicate the nations most commonly represented in metro-area tourism. Leading the pack were Japan, the United Kingdom and various Nordic countries. Below the flags, Charlie welcomes the world in Korean, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese, English, French, Finnish, German and Italian.
This Charlie spent a summer on St. Paul’s streets before the Forest Lake Park Board took notice. Engquist DePhillips was a Forest Lake native, and her Charlie soon took up residence inside the front door of City Hall. He had been there since fall 2001, touched by tens of thousands of hands.
But when the city moved offices to a spanking-new building in December 2014, Charlie was left behind.
The county accepted the city’s offer to donate the statue and decided to move it to Hardwood Creek, where it was enthusiastically greeted by children on Wednesday.
“Of course it’s a photo op for everyone,” said senior library manager Amy Worwa. “I was joking about how many times he’s going to appear on Christmas cards in Forest Lake this year.”
“I’m so glad someone will love him and hug him again,” she said. “I love Charlie Brown. Who doesn’t love that blockhead?”