- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2016

PANA, Ill. (AP) - When it comes to making an eye-catching statement, you’ve just got to give a big hand to Pana businessman Joe Coleman.

Except that he’s already got one.

Bemused passers-by will find it lying on the grassy verge on Illinois 16 just west of Pana. It’s very hard to miss, measuring 18 feet long from the tips of its ruby-painted nails to its wrist, with a palm area that is 6 feet wide. It’s also a heavy hand, made of fiberglass over a metal skeletal structure, tipping the scales at 1,000 pounds.

Coleman runs the namesake Joe Coleman Salvage & Demolition Inc. and spends his days roaming the nation, knocking things down carefully. From four-acre Caterpillar Inc. buildings in Decatur to bridges and smokestacks, he’s seen them all fall.

Along the way, he likes to buy and collect interesting objets d’art that catch his eye, and he first spotted the lonesome hand in a cow pasture near Ramsey three years ago.

“So I’ve been trying to buy it for three years,” he says. The reluctant owner didn’t want to release the grip of ownership, but Coleman has a way of breaking down resistance and getting the deal knocked through. Finally, after much discussion, the demo man recently made a $600 donation to a Ramsey church and the big hand was in his hands, so to speak.

Coleman doesn’t know much about its provenance but understands it’s a bit of promotional ephemera that hails from Chicago.

“There was a drawer in it to put brochures in or something,” he says.

He’s been busy rebuilding and strengthening the hand’s metal bone structure and is hiring a vehicle body shop expert to take care of some cosmetic surgery work on the rigid dermis. The hand had been out in the elements a long time, and cows used to use it as a leather scratching post — talk about a recipe for coarse skin.

Coleman, however, is firmly focused on the hand’s future role as a giant landmark pointer indicating the location of another his pet projects, the “Corvette Shed.” This houses his collection of some 17 Corvette sports cars, part of a stable of more than 40 vehicles that include dragsters, motorcycles, muscle cars from yesteryear and even a white Rolls-Royce with “Mr. DEMO” license plates.

The Corvette Shed houses many other treasures he’s found nationwide - such as a full-size, microphone-clutching Elvis Presley statue in fiberglass - and still has room for a full bar and banquet area. Coleman does a lot of political fundraisers, and recently entertained VIP guests who included Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“He rode out here on his motorcycle,” Coleman. “And he liked my shed here; he likes cars.”

The Corvette Shed also hosts community fundraisers and is the scene of a lavish annual steak dinner that pulls in more than $20,000 that is used to fund everything from scholarships for local students to helping out food banks. The constant stream of shed visitors includes quite a few who keep missing the country road turn-off to find the place from Illinois 16, but not anymore.

“Now I can tell them to just turn at the big hand,” he says, smiling. “You can’t miss it.”

Coleman, who relishes the unique, also likes the idea his giant hand will paint a smile on the lips of passers-by, wherever they’re going.

“It’s already got a lot of reaction, and there’s a thing on Facebook about it,” he says.

One of those intrigued and smiling passers-by recently was William Wooters from Decatur. He said the distinctly female-looking hand reminded him of that so-bad-it’s-good 1958 sci-fi movie, “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman,” and he just had to pull over and get his picture taken with it.

“When I saw it, I was like ‘Wow, that is just odd; a single giant hand, what do you do with something like that?’” he says. “But I also thought it was kind of neat.”


Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/29xIAVr


Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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