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Sandburg statue salutes Galesburg’s famous poet

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The annual Carl Sandburg Festival is off to a big start on Wednesday evening.

That's because Galesburg is welcoming a new sculpture of the city's most famous son.

The larger-than-life statue arrived Wednesday afternoon with a parade down Main Street. It's more than nine feet tall, weighs some 3,200 pounds and is made of bronze.

"I think he would be absolutely delighted," said Sandburg biographer Penelope Niven. "He'd be the first person in that parade."

Sandburg's legacy begins at his Galesburg birthplace. It's where the poet and Lincoln biographer learned to love a world of words. Images that characterized a lifetime of work.

"Sandburg had a passion for the working man, woman and child," she said. "He went to work full time when he was in the eighth grade."

We first visited artist Lonnie Stewart nearly two years ago. He went to work in the back of an East Peoria metal shop. That's where he created a tribute to the Galesburg icon.

"Sandburg is an inspiration for many reasons," he said. "First of all, his poetry."

The huge sculpture is actually very down to earth. Stewart worked with clay to visualize this poet of the people.

"It's just a fascinating story, and I loved his image, too," he said.

It's a meticulous, time-consuming process. Stewart used photos to capture each detail. There's even a guitar and goat to symbolize Sandburg's passion for nature.

"I want him to look out over Galesburg with retrospect and introspect," he said.

It's a special homecoming for Galesburg. It will restore the luster on this literary legend.

"Once somebody said to him, 'Carl, you're a legend in your own time,'" Niven continued. "And he said, 'A legend in my own time. It could be worse.'"

The new statue will kick off four days of events and activities centering on Sandburg in Galesburg.

The sculpture will be temporarily on display at 120 North Broad Street until it can be moved to its permanent home in Galesburg's Central Park.

"I hope they appreciate his accomplishments, and how we're honoring him," Stewart concluded.

It will be poetic justice for a native son who's coming home again.