'It cut like a knife': Town shocked after thieves take literal fork in the road

A three-metre-tall sculpture of a fork that brought whimsy to a rural intersection in Frankville, Ont., has disappeared after thieves apparently pried it from its base and made off with it.

Patron, sculptor say they plan to replace the piece of public art — but hope it's returned

Theft of 3-metre-tall fork leaves residents of Frankville, Ont., fuming

11 months ago
Duration 1:09
Bill Gibbons, who commissioned the work titled “Fork in the Road,” and artist Chris Banfalvi, who created it, say it’s disappointing that someone went to such lengths to steal it, eventually succeeding on their second attempt.

A three-metre-tall fork sculpture that brought whimsy to a rural intersection in Frankville, Ont., has disappeared after thieves apparently pried it from its base and made off with it.

The piece, titled "Fork in the Road," was commissioned by local resident Bill Gibbons in 2019 just before he transformed his maple syrup farm into an art gallery.

Gibbons said he used to give directions to people driving up Kitley Line 8 Road to stay left at the metaphorical fork in the road and take Leacock Road.

Adding the stainless steel monument, he said, helped drive the point home.

Bill Gibbons crouches next to the base of the 'Fork in the Road' sculpture with Leacock Road behind him. Police are investigating after someone swiped the three-metre-tall dinner utensil earlier in March 2022. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The sculpture was put up in a spirit of fun, Gibbons said, and he's struggling to understand why anybody would swipe it.

"One person suggested ... that somebody did it on a dare," Gibbons said. "It's really hard to know. I don't think the stainless steel is worth enough in the scrapyard to make it worth the effort."

Just over a week ago, Gibbons said the sculpture had been bent back, leaving it almost parallel with the road in what seemed to be the first attempt to remove it.

Gibbons said whoever made off with it the second time around likely had both tools and a bit of help.

The 'Fork in the Road' sculpture was unveiled in September of 2019. Artist Christopher Banfalvi (second from left), Bill Gibbons (centre) and Elizabethtown-Kitley Mayor Brant Burrow (second from right) all posed together at the ribbon-cutting. (Submitted by Bill Gibbons)

Sculptor Chris Banfalvi, who created the piece from a single sheet of stainless steel, said he was attracted by the idea of bringing a scene in The Muppets Movie into the real world.

While he's disappointed by the vandalism and theft, Banfalvi said he's also been heartened by the outpouring of support from the community.

"People were keeping it quiet to themselves how much they were enjoying it. But now we're really hearing how much people love the piece," Banfalvi said.

Leeds County OPP say they were first notified of the vandalism on March 9 and are now investigating the disappearance.

Const. Erin Cranton said people can contact police if they have information about the theft or possible suspects. 

Leeds County OPP say they first learned of damage to the sculpture on March 9, 2022, when it was bent backward in an apparent attempt to take it down. (Rebecca Schade)

Sculpture will return — in some form

Elizabethtown-Kitley Mayor Brant Burrow said the sculpture marked the start of a public art tour of the municipality and its loss is a big disappointment. 

"When I first got the news that the fork was gone, it cut like a knife," Burrow told CBC's As It Happens.

He said he hasn't had a chance to talk to council yet, but he does want the fork returned — or another piece of art to go up in its place.

"I'm pretty confident in saying that at some point in the future, there's going to be another utensil there. This community does not have to move forward without a fork in the road."

LISTEN | Mayor Brant Burrow speaks to CBC's As It Happens about the fork theft

Elizabethtown-Kitley township Mayor Brant Burrow says it cut like a knife when he learned the three-metre tall stainless steel utensil was stolen. But he told AIH guest host Gillian Findlay the town will not have to move forward without a fork in the road.

As for Gibbons and Banfalvi, they've heard offers to help fund a replacement for the sculpture — which cost more than $3,000 in materials and labour — and install it on a more solid footing.

Both say they'd like the original to be returned.

"Every morning, I sort of hope that during the night whoever took it decided to bring it back and drop it off," Gibbons said. "It's not really much use to anybody, in my mind, except here as a fork in the road."

With files from CBC's As It Happens