It’s not uncommon to see rural residents wearing face masks as everyone strives to slow the spread of COVID-19, but travelers passing through Pelican Rapids are doing a double take.

The community has one of the largest face masks on display. Actually, it’s in use by the town’s icon, Pelican Pete.

Pelican Pete is a 15-foot, six-inch statue in Pelican Rapids who now dons a facemask made by town resident Sandra Grothe. Once she got the okay from Pelican Rapid’s mayor Brent Frazier, she constructed the mask. City workers helped put the mask on the pelican.

Pelican Pete is a 15 foot, six inch concrete statue located in the town’s park. The mask was made by Pelican Rapids resident Sandra Grothe and was placed on Pete with the help of city crews.

Groethe, like many sewers, has been busy making face masks for the general population’s use, but took a suggestion from her daughter, Catherine,  to make the gigantic-sized one for Pelican Pete.

“She thought it would be fun,” Grothe said.

Before she started the project, Grothe ran the idea by Pelican Rapid’s mayor and family friend Brent Fazier. He had no objections, she said. Now she faced the task of actually constructing it.

She used a sheet for the main mask, and with the help of city crews put it on the statue.

It’s a small fit for the large statue, but it works, she said.

Groethe learned sewing skills first from her sister. She put those methods to practice while making her dolls’ clothes, Groethe said. More sewing techniques were learned in junior high Home Economics classes. Her first project in 7th grade, she recalls, was a magenta button down skirt with two big front pockets.

Sandra and Allen Grothe live in Pelican Rapids where Sandra completed one of the largest sewing endeavors of her life: She made a face mask for the town’s icon, Pelican Pete. The 15 foot, six inch concrete statue dons the mask made from a sheet. Contributed photo

She continued sewing throughout high school, college and early in her marriage, but she quit once she started a family and operated a daycare.

Once she retired, Grothe picked it up once more; focusing on mission quilt tops.

It was a member of her church, Faith Lutheran, who asked Groethe and other church members to sew masks for Ecumen, a non-profit senior housing services organization.

“I had sewed a number of masks and was asked by our pastor to do a ‘Sewing with Sandy’ video to show how easy they are to make,” she said. Her husband, Allen, manned the camera and her instructional video became viral. It’s available on several Facebook pages including the Faith Lutheran Church, Pastor Michael Buller and Pelican Rapids Press Facebook sites as well as her own.

Groethe has not yet created a video on making the super-sized mask, however.

And is there a message she was conveying in Pelican Pete’s mask construction?

“It is just a fun way to remind people to be safe and wear masks for everyone’s safety,” she said.