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MUSCATINE, Iowa - Beginning early next month, some downtown Muscatine buildings are going to look like they're housing an inverted, angry trapped giant squid.

Judging from a rendering of the Stanley Consultants' Laurel Building on Second Street, things could get a little scary around the Melon City.

That's no giant squid, of course. It's just The Kraken, a giant - but mythical, thank goodness -river monster.

The Kraken has 25-foot-long inflatable tentacles and a 10-foot-tall inflatable head.

Muscatine artist Andrew Anderson created both The Kraken, a multi-site inflatable sculpture, and the local legend behind The Kraken.

The legend, according to Anderson, "re-imagines Muscatine's story" with key events highlighted by visits from a giant river monster.

That monster, as monsters sometimes do to unsuspecting cities, is set to visit again.

Anderson said he plans to use the piece to promote Muscatine.

"I want people to expect exciting, interesting experiences," he said. He also wants to "strengthen Muscatine's image as a creative place."

People can expect to see The Kraken on and in multiple buildings around town, he said.

Anderson, a Muscatine native, sees his artistic role as "creative event designer and producer." His past projects have included involvement in the Holiday Stroll and Muscatine's Fourth of July parade.

The legend behind the giant river monster

According to Anderson, when the Jayne House was being moved from Mulberry Avenue to Iowa Avenue last summer, a worker discovered a mysterious book in the attic that spoke of a giant, squid-like river monster, a Kraken.

The Kraken first appeared around 1838, the year Muscatine's first sawmill was built.

During the summer of 1891, according to the legend, the giant river monster was seen again - this time, Anderson said, as a harbinger that lumber empires would give way to a rapidly growing pearl button industry.

Twenty years later, the monster again appeared - this time in the name of plastic. "As beautiful as they were, mother of pearl buttons were no match in speed or price of the new plastic buttons," he wrote.

What does the coming appearance of The Kraken mean this time?

Anderson said that the monster's arrival suggests a new business epoch.

"We are the ambitious, smart, creative and enthusiastic Midwestern natives who are building the next generation of businesses in our nation," he wrote. "We want to live and work in creative, inspiring environments, places where innovation and exploration are expected.

"We want to work in a town where we're going to run into an engineer, an architect, a writer, a movie maker, a designer, a chef, and a lawyer - as long as it's a cool lawyer - when we go for our coffee."

Anderson counts himself part of a creative group of young professionals who live in Midwest cities and towns "because we like it here. Sure, there are cool things on the coasts, and in big cities throughout the country. But we like it here. We know things work here. And we can build things here."

Anderson said he believes more and more Midwestern communities will shift from a manufacturing economy to one that's more service-based.

"The workforce that drives that new economy is looking for inviting places to live and work. Muscatine is one of those places."


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