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Historic icon returns to Cape’s downtown

By Staff | Nov 19, 2011

When photos of Big John wearing a thong bikini on some distant beach began to surface in the summer, residents grew wary that the big guy had fallen prey to a hedonistic lifestyle far from the safe confines of his parking lot home.

Rumors swirled he had been kidnapped, was on a permanent vacation, or was sowing some wild oats beyond the boundaries of Cape Coral.

But instead, the big guy was just getting a makeover and all those rumors were just an effort by his owner, Elmer Tabor, to stir up some chatter and interest about the city he loves and calls home.

Tabor said the story of Big John’s disappearance made news in such far flung cities as Seattle and Denver and created an air of mystery around the whereabouts of the 6,000-pound statue.

People were discussing Cape Coral in a different way, he said, as Big John gave the city a chance to be showcased as a fun place where the citizens were deeply invested in their community.

“This has brought a lot of positive attention to Cape Coral,” Tabor added.

Thursday afternoon Big John was being screwed back into the place where he’s stood long before Cape Coral was even a city, standing watch over the plaza that bears his namesake.

He’s returned fresh faced and clear eyed, with a new look that includes cuffed blue jeans, Chuck Taylor All-Stars and a shirt made of the United States Constitution and the American flag.

Big John was also sporting two grocery bags, the same ones he used to hold when he was the symbol for a long defunct chain of grocery stores. He hadn’t held the grocery bags since 1990.

“We’re all proud to be Americans,” Tabor said of the reason Big John is retrofitted with the proud Red, White and Blue. “And we’re proud of all the men and women serving overseas who are keeping us free.”

Both an honorary Rotarian and citizen of Cape Coral, Big John is one of only five of the statues left in the country, with his brothers spread across the south and midwest.

Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director John Jacobsen said he encountered one of Big John’s kin in Metropolis, Illinois, where he towered over a statue of the Man of Steel himself, Superman.

Jacobsen said the return of Big John is akin to a rebirth, much like South Cape itself, which is working to rebrand itself as pedestrian friendly, shopping and dining destination.

“I’m glad to see him back home,” Jacobsen said. “He’s been on a long vacation, but there’s no place like home.”