VISIT Milwaukee hosting ceremony officially unveiling the statue’s new look

After taking several weeks away from the RiverWalk, the Bronze Fonz returns to his post on Friday, March 11 during a 1 p.m. reinstallation and official unveiling ceremony.

“VISIT Milwaukee’s social media, emails, and phones have been flooded with love for the Bronze Fonz and excitement for his return,” said Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee. “He is a popular stop and photo opp for Milwaukee visitors as well as locals. We wanted to ensure that we are keeping this beloved public work of art in excellent condition.”

The Bronze Fonz is typically refreshed on the RiverWalk; however, VISIT Milwaukee worked with Vanguard Sculpture Services to remove the statue from its place for a more in-depth examination and restoration in Vanguard’s workspace. Its Feb. 1 removal was its first time leaving the RiverWalk for maintenance since it was installed in 2008.

Following an analysis of the sculpture, Vanguard Sculpture Services recommended removing the paint completely from the Fonz and replacing it with a traditional patina for bronze, allowing for easier upkeep and maintenance. Though the Bronze Fonz now has a truly all-over bronze look, the statue has varying shades for visual effect. For example, his jacket will be a darker shade while his T-shirt will have a lighter shade.

“Vanguard Sculpture Services’ expertise and care for the Bronze Fonz has been so valuable,” Williams-Smith said. “Having worked on such a wide array of artworks – including a small role working with the artist when this statue was first created – Vanguard’s brought a knowledgeable perspective to the project.”

Paying homage to “Happy Days” character Arthur Fonzarelli, the Bronze Fonz was created by Artist Gerald P. Sawyer. Fonzarelli (aka “Fonzie”) was the tough guy, king of cool from the popular sitcom set in 1950s Milwaukee.

Seeing locals’ reaction to the “missing” statue, VISIT Milwaukee created the Bronze Fonz Challenge on social media. People were asked to stand in for the Fonz flashing the signature two thumbs up and taking a picture where he normally stands.

In honor of the Bronze Fonz’s return, VISIT Milwaukee is throwing a celebration to welcome him back to the RiverWalk. Taking place March 11 at 1 p.m., guests will enjoy:

  • Bronze Fonz postcards and stickers created by VISIT Milwaukee
  • Official Milwaukee Visitors Guides and Visitors Maps
  • Guest Speakers
    • Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO, VISIT Milwaukee
    • Cavalier Johnson, mayor, City of Milwaukee
    • Maria Van Hoorn, deputy secretary, Wisconsin Department of Tourism
    • Beth Weirick, president and CEO, Milwaukee Downtown BID
    • Mame McCully, president, Milwaukee RiverWalk District
    • Beth Sahagian-Allsopp, co-owner, Vanguard Sculpture Services
  • Bronze Fonz Challenge winner announcement
  • Official statue unveiling

After the ceremony, guests can stop by the Newsroom Pub for delicious food samples. There they will also find Actor Henry Winkler’s autograph and photograph of him standing with the statue depicting his iconic role.

“With so many heavy things happening in our world right now, we hope this event provides some levity and fun,” Williams-Smith said. “This is really an opportunity to hang out on the RiverWalk with one of Milwaukee’s coolest characters.”