A Turtle, A Frog and Two Catfish Come to Grafton

How did an enormous green turtle, a frog and two catfish wind up on the Mississippi River bank in Grafton? It's a not-so-tall tale!


.... (really about 3 years ago), a woman named Mary and her friend Dan were looking at Grafton’s beautiful Lighthouse Park and said “We need more things for kids to do in this park! And, it has to be something that won’t float away during a flood.”

Mary thought and thought, and then she remembered a place in St. Louis called Turtle Park Playground. There are many concrete turtles, turtle eggs and even snakes in this park. Her son and his wife had watched it being built many years ago and told her about it.

She asked herself - “Could such a thing happen in Grafton?” She searched and searched and finally called the City Museum in St. Louis to see if they knew who created the park. “Yes”, they told her, “We know who sculpted the creatures at Turtle Park and they still work at the museum. Their names are Kurt, Bobby and Ricky.”

Look who has a new home in Grafton!

When Mary talked to Kurt, Bobby and Ricky, they said YES! Our company, City Sculpture Studios, can create creatures for the kids of Grafton. They then built a model showing what it would look like. Their model included a large turtle with a frog on her back, accompanied by 2 catfish.

The Parks Committee, the Grafton Mayor and City Council members looked at the model and said “YES - LET’S BUILD THIS SCULPTURE IN GRAFTON RIGHT BY THE CONFLUENCE OF THE MISSISSIPPI AND ILLINOIS RIVERS! Kids can play on it and it won’t float down the river.”

It wasn’t easy finding the right time to build this concrete sculpture. You can’t sculpt with concrete when it is freezing and you can’t build it under water when the rivers are flooding. And you have to get the right government permits! These things took a long time.

In the meantime, the Public Works department built a raised foundation for the sculpture that didn’t move even during a flood.

Finally, the summer of 2020 was the right time to build the turtle, frog and catfish!

Kurt, Ricky, and Bobby came to Grafton every week for almost 2 months. They started by shaping the creatures with conduit. Then a cement truck came and poured about 115,000 pounds of concrete over the conduit. The sculpture was taking shape! They then used a large machine to blow gunite on the shapes in order to carve details. The creatures were finished except for the final step of detail grinding, staining and sealing! Finally -THE SCULPTURES WERE FINISHED!

To celebrate, Kurt, Bobby, Ricky, Dan and Mary went to the Grafton Pub and ate cheeseburgers.


“During these difficult times it has been rewarding to work on a project that is designed solely to bring JOY to the kids of Grafton, kids who visit Grafton and the kid in all of us!" Mary Lillesve

About the Author

Mary Lillesve

Mary Lillesve is a retired art teacher, resident of Grafton, IL and serves on the Grafton City Council as an alderwoman. She spearheaded the movement to create the Turtle, Catfish and Frog cement sculptures that are now a part of the Grafton Riverfront at Lighthouse Park.