For 23 years, Wally stood sentinel in front of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield while endearing himself to hundreds of visitors, from the young and the old to the big and the small.
But even fiberglass stegosaurus’ need a tune-up once in a awhile, so in April 2020, Wally was temporarily relieved of his post to travel to a studio in Germantown, N.Y. to receive a fresh coat of paint and a new tail.
But after spending 16 months in rehab, Wally is back! Aficionados of the popular life-size replica dinosaur in the Berkshires and beyond were able to rejoice on Monday, when the newly restored, repaired and repainted Wally was lowered back into his familiar spot in front of the museum’s main entrance on South Street.
Like many who return to the Berkshires, Wally made his return in a vehicle, but due to his girth and bulk — Wally is 26 feet wide, 12 feet tall and tips the scales at a hefty 1,200 pounds — he made the 47-mile jaunt back from the Hudson Valley on a flatbed truck, not in a car or on a bus. He was gently lowered back into place with a crane.
We see Wally’s return as a good omen for the Berkshires. Considering that Wally left the Berkshires when COVID-19 was beginning to rage here and the Berkshires were shutting down, his return while the pandemic is now waning and the county re-opening is a symbolic reminder that the worst of this dreaded, devastating illness is, hopefully, behind us now.
His arrival also comes just as the Berkshire Museum is to re-open its renovated second floor on Aug. 6, the centerpiece of a $3.5 million renovation project. The new space includes nine updated galleries, five new exhibitions, two flexible learning spaces and other amenities, according to the museum, which will give the 118-year-old museum a new look and feel.
Wally didn’t set out to become a Berkshire icon. He originally spent 30 years on the grounds of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History before he was given to the Berkshire Museum as a gift by Carol and Tom McCann in 1997. His name came through a community-wide contest. He was originally created from a mold made by wildlife sculptor Louis Paul Jonas in his studio, which was then located in Hudson, N.Y. Wally is the second sculpture Jonas made from a mold he created for the Sinclair Dinosaur pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65. Wally was touched up at the current Louis Paul Jonas studio in Germantown.
The Berkshires have had other unusual objects like Wally at other sites that have attracted attention. It wasn’t that long ago that the sculpture of a ship that appeared to be sinking with the bow pointing upward resided in the parking lot of the Allendale Shopping Center in Pittsfield.
Constructed in 1990 from a 40-year old fueler that had belonged to a Boston fishing fleet, the “Sea Bee”, as the 32-foot sculpture was known, was dismantled in 2002 after the shopping center came under new ownership, and the remnants were shipped to California.
Only the very top of the bow remains, sticking out of the ground by the library at California State University at Fullerton, where what’s left of the Sea Bee is now on long term loan.
Thankfully, Wally’s second act has been more fruitful than the Sea Bees, and its become part of the community in a way that the upside down ship sculpture never did. Wally created a bond with Berkshire residents. And now he’s been restored, repaired, and repainted, ready for possibly another 23 years. It’s good to have him back.