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Flower Power with the Great Emancipator

Rich Egger
Michael Krebs said he has been a Lincoln presenter since 1994. He is the same height and about the same weight as Lincoln.

Macomb has a new sculpture of Abraham Lincoln like you have never seen him before. The topiary sculpture features a colorful array of flowers growing out of the 16th president's beard.

“We wanted to do something that was unique, that would be a curiosity, that might draw people to Macomb,” said Jock Hedblade, Executive Director of the Macomb Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Macomb isn’t really on the way to anywhere, right? And the whole kind of impetus of this was to see if we could draw visitors to Macomb.”

Credit Rich Egger
The sculpture was decked out for the unveiling with extra flowers around the hat and base. Only the beard will permanently feature vegetation growing out of it.

Hedblade said they will experiment with different types of plantings for Lincoln’s beard for different times of the year. He credited the Macomb Beautiful Association and the Centennial Morning Rotary Club with preparing the sculpture for its unveiling, which took place Saturday morning. He hoped other local organizations will donate time and money to help with future plantings.

The mixed-media bust of Lincoln is 15 feet high and eight feet wide

“What we have is the cement head of Abraham Lincoln, which was actually created on a 3-D printer. We have the metal hat on the top. And then we have the live plants in the face,” said Hedblade.

The sculpture is on the south lawn of City Hall.

Hedblade said McDonough County is on the cusp of being added to the Looking for Lincoln program, and he called the topiary sculpture the centerpiece of local attractions related to Lincoln.

Credit Rich Egger
After the ceremony, various groups took turns getting photographed in front of the sculpture.

The in-person audience for the unveiling was limited to invited guests because of the pandemic.  The ceremony was streamed live for everyone else.

Duke Oursler is the artist behind the sculpture. He is an associate professor in the Department of Art and Design at Western Illinois University. He was unable to attend the ceremony in-person so he shared a few remarks via an online feed.

“I am so grateful for the city of Macomb for being such an open community, and kind, and interested in making art part of what we value,” Oursler said.

“I am truly grateful to have an opportunity to make a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe, a person whose importance is now more relevant than ever.”

He said artist Marc Moulton helped him create the piece.

Lincoln presenter Michael Krebs also participated in the ceremony. Krebs said he graduated from Western Illinois University in 1978. He is now with the Chicago-based With Lincoln Productions.

“It’s nice to be dedicating something to Lincoln again. I love the creativity that’s going into so many monuments of Lincoln today,” Krebs said.

“This is a great example for the city of Macomb.”

Krebs said the Ken Burns series The Civil War inspired him to begin performing as Lincoln. Krebs believes Lincoln’s message remains strong today and said Lincoln’s words of wisdom will always carry the country through.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.