The Giant Farmer of Plain was a huge success with over 2,500 people enjoying performances on the Farm/Art DTour, and thousands more who stopped to say hello during the week while the twenty-foot tall puppet reclined on his straw chair.
This project was a year in the making, from brainstorming with village community members and artist Christopher Lutter-Gardella in October 2021, to community workshops during the spring & summer of 2022, to countless hours building the farmer itself.
First and foremost, thank you to the Village of Plain, led by Ray Ring and the puppet committee of Sheila Carver, Kendra Schluter, Ashley Olson, Bob Neuheisel, Marcia Ring, Tracey Brent, Amanda Ring, Jim Captain, Nicholas Studnicka, Melissa Marx, Pat Price, and Steve Frank for their openness to collaborating on such a unique project and their support, guidance and engagement throughout the process.
Next, this project could not have happened without the space, equipment, skills, time and labor from Kraemer Brothers. We are blown away by their generosity and inspired by their skills, ingenuity and problem-solving. Many helped build the farmer, but special thanks to Andy Kraemer, Matt Price, Taylor Riek, Tim Price, George Bergman, Dan Portwine, Dan Louis, John Walsh, John Feiner, Ben Ring, Greg Kraemer, Steve Kraemer, and the rest of the Kraemer Brothers crew.
A big thank you also to Kraemer North America who donated materials for the farmer and Bob Neuheisel for his ability to source most any material. Be it wheel pulleys, rope or chain hoist, he was just a phone call away.
Using the French painter Jean-François Millet’s painting The Sower as our inspiration, we wanted to depict the simple, primeval picture of the farmer moving across the landscape. No machinery, no devices, just the human moving across the landscape, sowing and harvesting. This, it seems to me, is the root of all culture. Huge THANKS to the Village of Plain and Kraemer Brothers Construction for all the highly-skilled hands and minds they invested into this project. May this project be yet another manifestation of your daily work: building bridges that connect people and structures that inspire awe.”
In addition to the huge farmer, we also created nine giant vegetables for the farmer to harvest. Thank you to Kasey Maxwell, TJ Wunnicke, and the students of the River Valley middle and high schools for their help making the veggies! Thank you to St. Luke’s Church and the LBH missionaries who helped paint and make the leaves of the vegetables. Thank you to Connie Anderson who helped lead those workshops.
Thanks to Mark Alt for helping to design and troubleshoot the farmer’s seat. Thanks to Ed Liegel and Michael Bindl of Driftless Extracts for use of the field, and for working with us to leave a section of hemp standing for the “stage.” Thank you to Richard Parnell and Alicia Cosnahan who painted the farmer’s clothes and helped with final construction.
Once the farmer was constructed, a whole crew came together to bring him to life! Thank you to Robert Schlieckau and Tom Riek for driving the forklift during the performances. Thank you to our puppeteers, who came to multiple rehearsals and operated the farmer’s limbs during the performances: Chloe, Alex, Wayne, Celia, Ceci, Jack, Maria, Kei, Max, Ray, Al, Ryan, Pat, Kendra, Mary, Sarah and Beth. We could not have done it without you!!
Thank you to our dancers, who brought the vegetables to life, especially to Mandy Herrick, AnnaJo Doer, Rufus Jupiter, and Sarah Butler for choreographing the movements, and to our amazing local dancers Braelyn Tafs, Josie Mahoney, Ella Myers, Kenley Straka, Brielle Grant, Gina Klein, Kyllie Smith and Nevaeh Hatfield.
The performances went so smoothly in large part because of the amazing parking attendants, guiding people to their spots, answering questions, and helping us track the numbers of attendees. Thanks to Marcia Ring, Mary Brey, Lisa Price, Randy Brey, Larry Blau, Greg Patterson, Craig, and Ray Ring.
Finally, much gratitude to our funders without whom none of this would be possible, especially local support from the Sauk County Arts, Humanities & Historic Preservation Committee and the Wisconsin Arts Board.
Dan S. Wang reflects on a conversation with participating DTour landowner Scott Sprecher.
Elena Byrne profiles farming family William & Alma Gasser and DTour artist Tory Tepp.