Hormel Plaza is in the works

By Karen Colbenson

Dennis Maschka’s plans for a public square to memorialize Austin’s history and past leaders could take shape next summer, just a year after the parks and recreation director died unexpectedly.

Bonnie Rietz, former mayor of Austin and project facilitator, says it’s important that Maschka’s idea come to life. Maschka also will be remembered.

"He was the one who started this," said Rietz. "He was the initiator of this project, so we want to in some way keep that in history, as well. Somehow Denny’s part of it will be honored."


The idea for a memorial park was born out of the realization that there are no standing tributes in the city to the founder of the Hormel Foods Corp., George A. Hormel.

"Do you realize there is nothing in our community named after George Hormel?" asked Gretchen Ramlo, parks and recreation board member.

Plans call for it to be named George A. Hormel Plaza. The plaza will contain a statue of George, his wife, Lillian, and son Jay. The plaza likely will be on a large, green expanse along First Street Southwest, on the north side of the Veterans Pavilion in Community Bandshell Park.

The plaza committee will plan and design the area over winter, with a goal of erecting the monument and memorial pods in summer.

The plaza will be educational, comprehensive and historical, according to the plaza committee.

Rows of memorial pods will represent the historical timeline of the Hormel family, corporation, foundation and institute, as well as the community’s workers, agriculture and residents. Company and individual donors will be able to purchase a pod in honor of someone, or historical pictures could be etched in marble. Money from pod sales will be used to fund the plaza project.

Jeff Anderson, of Anderson Memorials, is designing the Hormel family monument.

"We should have something that thanks and honors George Hormel and his family for their contributions and role in the community," said Rietz. "They were so much a part of the community."


The nearby Cedar River also is included in the plaza plans.

"We want to highlight the Cedar River and the beauty and history of that," said Rietz. "Many think of flooding issues, but we forget about the beauty a river brings to the community, too. That part of our city along the river has a lot of history."

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