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Popular downtown sculpture recovered

“Bonjour,” the bronze sculpture of a boy with a rabbit, had been missing for five months when it was discovered hidden not too far from downtown Fallbrook. It was stolen from Village Square last July, one of three local statues stolen last year.

There had been no sign of it until the Saturday before Christmas, December 20, when Fepuloni Feinga was out looking for golf balls in the empty field adjacent to his home on Morro Road. (He and his children practice their swings by hitting the balls out into the field.)

Searching under the dump truck he keeps parked at the edge of the field, Feinga found “something” rolled in a blanket. After pulling away the blanket, he called to his wife Laurie, telling her that what he had found “looked like something from downtown.”

Laurie recognized the statue as one that “belongs downtown” but did not know that it had been missing. They were both stunned, said Laurie, but she knew they should call the police right away. She called the Sheriff’s Station and two deputies were sent out to the location.

The couple has no idea how the sculpture ended up there under their dump truck but said that lots of people cross the field on their way to and from downtown.

The dump truck has not been moved for a while and Fepuloni Feinga did not notice anything under it when he cleared trash from around the truck two weeks earlier.

The week before Christmas, Fallbrook sculptor Celou Bonnet contacted a local television station asking if they would air a public service announcement offering a reward for information on the whereabouts of “Bonjour.”

A few days later, Bonnet received a call telling her that the 150-pound sculpture had been found in an empty lot and taken to Fallbrook’s Sheriff’s Substation.

On Monday, December 22, Bonnet was at the station when Deputy Mark Cahill and Detective Dan Laibach returned the statue to Vince Ross, president of Fallbrook Village Association, and Jim Swan, chairman of the Art in Public Places program.

Bonnet said, “It’s a miracle. I thought, positively, that it was in someone’s backyard [rather than cut up].”

“We appreciate everything the Sheriff’s Department has done,” Swan added. “We thought we’d never see it again.”

Bonnet, Ross and Swan were all happy to see the recovered statue, the only one of the three stolen to be found unharmed. A hawk statue stolen from Palomares House was cut up and sold as scrap metal, while a dog statue stolen from in front of the Avocado Animal Hospital is still missing.

As for returning “Bonjour” to its home in Village Square, the Art in Public Places Committee is scheduled to meet on January 8 and will discuss reinstalling all of the statues that have been removed from display to protect them.

“We’re sure happy to get it back; it’s great,” said Swan. “Hopefully the climate is improving to reinstall them.”

According to Detective Laibach, it is unlikely the thefts will continue now that the North County Metal Task Force is working and there are new laws for recycling metal. The price of scrap metal has also fallen, making a bronze statue a less profitable item.

Even so, the Fallbrook Village Association has been working on security issues involving the statues to keep them safe.

“We changed the lighting [to try and make it more secure],” Ross said. “When we get the security system correct, we will reinstall them as soon as we can.”

He said that the Rotary Club will be delighted that the sculpture it sponsored has been found, concluding, “We’re an art community; we’ll be energized and back in business” now that the statues can be returned to their places.

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