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Pasadena gets its guerrilla art 18-foot fork back

Pasadena gets its fork back

After nearly two years of planning, prodding and debate, a group of Pasadena residents finally got its big wish: The city let them permanently stick their 18-foot fork in the road.

"It's not going anywhere," said a triumphant Phil Coombes, who has been part of the so-called Fork in the Road Gang since its inception.

Last month, a group of about 10 dedicated friends resurrected the enormous wooden utensil at the median that splits St. John and Pasadena avenues.

With a handful of enthusiastic locals cheering them on, the developers cemented the guerrilla art into "fork plaza" more than a year after the California Transportation Authority forced them to carry it away.

Now, it's here to stay.

"It's made such a wonderful impression on people," said resident Bob Stane, who received the fork as a surprise and very public birthday gift in 2009. "I think we've sort of altered the outlook on outdoor art in Pasadena."

Like many residents, Stane often drove past the dividing median, and he always joked that the fork in the road needed a fork. So for his 75th birthday, his friend and former coworker, Ken Marshall, gave him exactly he asked for.

Marshall said he worked for two weeks to erect the giant silver utensil. Then, one night after Stane's birthday, Marshall and friends put it up overnight, wearing fake Caltrans uniforms and waving at police as they drove by.

On Halloween morning 2009, Stane encountered the belated birthday gift.

"My oldest son is a police officer and he said, 'Dad, you're going to jail for this,' " Marshall recalled. "I didn't expect it to last more than two or three days."

But the fork's popularity saved it from immediate removal. Caltrans, which owns the median, allowed the fork to remain for six months before its makers had to take it home.

Eventually, however, Caltrans spokeswoman Kelly Markham said the agency and the city worked out an agreement to allow for public art in that space. The fork's creators collaborated with city engineers and got two city permits in August to reinstall it.

Now the fork is refurbished, reinforced and insured by the Fork in the Road Gang.

To celebrate its return, the gang is hoping to "Put a Fork in Hunger." In coordination with Union Station Homeless Services, Coombes said the group is hoping to collect five tons of food at fork plaza this weekend. Donations will feed people in Pasadena's Central Park on Thanksgiving Day.

The drive will be held Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the "fork plaza," near 200 Bellefontaine Street.

Meanwhile, Marshall is proud that his creation will remain in the city for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, he says, his kids and grandkids will remember him when they drive by.

When that happens, he says, they'll call it "fork-lore."

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-- Matt Stevens

Photo: File photo of "The Fork in the Road" in Pasadena. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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