Giant Mr. Potato Head Vandalized

28 March 2002

A giant Mr. Potato Head given to an British town by its U.S. sister city has been scratched and dismembered in an attack by children.

The weekly newspaper Belper Today reported that the 7-foot fiberglass statue had one of its arms ripped off and its hat broken in the attack last week. Mr. Potato Head was sent to a fiberglass specialist for repairs and now stands outside the Safeway supermarket in Belper.

``He causes quite a commotion,'' said Julie Arkwright, a store employee. ``We get lots of parents and children asking about him.'' Dressed as early English settler William Blackstone, Mr. Potato Head was sent to Belper last May as a goodwill ambassador from Belper's sister city of Pawtucket, R.I., headquarters for Hasbro Inc., the toy's manufacturer.

Almost immediately, he became a source of controversy. Mr. Potato Head was moved from his original site in the center of Belper after residents complained the statue was an eyesore and had no place among the town's historic buildings. For a time, the giant toy was exiled to a children's playground and a Wild West theme park.

Last week Mr. Potato Head was left standing outside a school in nearby Heanor, where a group of children attacked him, the paper reported. Reg Whitworth, Belper's tourism development officer, said he was reassessing the mascot's future in light of the attack. ``We've had a call from a tourism company in Rhode Island who want to take him on a tour of America,'' Whitworth told Belper Today. ``So at the moment, I think we'd be quite happy to send him home.''

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