Dr. Seuss National Memorial Garden
For some cities, the best universe to celebrate is the cartoon universe. They stake their claims by erecting cartoon statues. Santa Rosa, California, is headquarters for Peanuts. Chester, Illinois, has dibs on Popeye. And Springfield has positioned itself as Ground Zero for Dr. Seuss.
It's a typical, thin celebrity birthplace association. Theodor Seuss Geisel, creator of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat, was indeed born in Springfield in 1904. But he wrote all of his famous books for children (and created all of his famous characters) much later in life, when he lived 3,000 miles away in La Jolla, California.
Springfield, however, knew that the town with the statues wins. So when Dr. Seuss died in 1991, it commissioned his stepdaughter to make fancy bronze sculptures of her dad's imaginary menagerie. It took until 2002 (at a reported cost of $6.2 million), but the important ones are all here: Horton the elephant, Sam-I-Am, Yertle the Turtle, Thidwick the Moose, the Lorax, the Grinch, the Cat-in-the-Hat, even Dr. Seuss himself.
These are statues for parents though, not kids. Dr. Seuss's colorful characters could've lent themselves to a playground populated with climbable fiberglass creatures. Instead, they're rendered in don't-damage-by-touching bronze, displayed in a neatly trimmed "national memorial garden" encircled by Springfield's cultural museums. But then again, these are the unambiguous heroes of the late 20th century. Would you rather see a fondly recalled childhood character immortalized, or some senator?
"It is fun to have fun," said the Cat-in-the-Hat, "But you have to know how."