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Fontana's failing frog has fans

Fans of the Fontana frog gathered to show their support. John Karabas (second from right), owner of Pie High Pizza, is trying to organize local support to help the owner refurbish the frog.

September 11, 2012 | 04:25 PM
FONTANA — The once-green giant frog on Highway 67 is the dinner topic of choice at Pie High Pizza.

Nearly everyone in the village agrees the frog sitting on a former mini golf course could use a make over, and in shared memories on Pie High Pizza's Facebook page, frog fans rallied behind cries to "Save the frog!"

Pie High Pizza posted a photo of the frog Aug. 28 and announced that "rumor has it a local real estate agent. ... wants it removed."

At an August Community Development Authority meeting, Jay Hicks, commissioner and realtor with Keefe Real Estate, called the frog an "eyesore."

Village Administrator Kelly Hayden said, during the meeting and in the weeks following, there is little the village can do about the frog because it is on private property.

"Because it's not a house, there's very few zoning regulations about it," Hayden said. "There's nothing we can do about it, and there's nothing the village wants to do about it."

More than 250 comments responded to the Facebook post from Pie High Pizza, many with happy childhood memories about the frog. Not one comment suggested the frog's removal.

John Karabas, owner of Pie High Pizza, said he was surprised by the response.

"I only have about 400 fans," he said. "We got over 280 responses. I usually just get five or six comments."

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Because of the amount of interest in the frog, Karabas said he is motivated to find a solution.

"I think some realtor thinks (the frog) is hurting property value," he said. "From what I hear, he's the one that wants to take it down, not the village. From what I understand, the village doesn't care either way right now."

Hayden agreed with Karabas: the village doesn't have an agenda regarding the frog.

"The village has no plans of anything with the frog," Hayden said. "It was never anything to the board or any of the commissions."

Karabas said the village should be involved, though.

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"I think they already know (about the response)," he said. "I don't want that thing to disappear one day. It's just a unique little quirky thing in the area that people love."

Through one of the responses to the Facebook post, Karabas said he heard from the grandson of the owner.

"He talked about how he used to paint the thing every summer and doesn't want to see it go," Karabas said. "It's a draw for other people as well. From the restaurant, they'll go down after dinner and take a picture with the frog."

There's more than just talk behind the "Save the Frog" campaign. Karabas said he takes calls from people who want to do something.

"I'm going to try to talk to the owner," he said. "He's been trying to sell the property for a while now."

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After that contact is made, Karabas wants to ask approval from the owner to renovate the frog.

"If there's a way to refurbish it, we will," he said. "Obviously, we have to get permission from the owner first. We're not going to go running around on private property."

The frog's fans will find a way to raise money, Karabas said.

"We're talking about doing a fundraiser at the restaurant," he said. "Maybe get some T-shirts, just raise money that way. If it's a money issue, I don't think that's a problem."

Karabas also has potential volunteers in line to help.

"I've talked to some painters and others," he said. "We could probably get some volunteer time out of them."

Tenant goals

Jerald Kehe rents the house on the same lot as the frog. He and another tenant, Valerie Potts, have already started their own efforts to revitalize the frog and the area behind it.

"I've talked to Bob (Hutchinson) and the realtor," he said. "We just trying to figure out the plan right now."

Kehe said they have already discussed their plans with Ron Nyman, zoning administrator.

"We should know within about two months if we can go ahead with the project," Kehe said. "We already have some of the supplies, the concrete to repair the frog. We still need some paint estimates and other items."

Kehe and Potts have only been renting the house for a few months, but Kehe said he grew up in Fontana, and he would be sad to see it taken down.

"We have had some vandalism recently, though," he said. "Kids climbing on the frog. It is structurally sturdy, but it's still not safe."


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