Community members gather at the Bowdoinham home where a donkey made by a local artist was set on fire overnight. Darcie Moore / The Time Record

BOWDOINHAM — Someone set a life-size donkey sculpture on fire late Friday in what the artist believes was a politically motivated crime.

The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office and the state fire marshal’s office are investigating the apparent arson, Chief Deputy Brett Strout said Saturday.

The donkey, named “Mr. H,” took artist Doug Chess two years to build. It was on a trailer so it could be moved to different locations and events. Friday night, it was parked near Main Street at the home of Theresa Turgeon.

Turgeon’s lawn is lined with several Democratic candidate campaign signs. She is a former selectwoman in town, currently running for a seat on the board. Turgeon said the donkey had only arrived Friday afternoon.

“The plan was to stay overnight and have people enjoy it,” she said.

Turgeon noticed the donkey was in flames around 1 a.m. Saturday. Bowdoinham firefighters were called to the scene, but the donkey was already destroyed.


“It was incredibly scary,” Turgeon said.

Artist Doug Chess stands near the donkey he spent two years building, which was set on fire overnight. Contributed photo

Chess, of Richmond, said Saturday he is sad that the donkey was destroyed. He only completed it about a week ago. It cost about $3,000 in materials and “immeasurable” man-hours over two years, he said.

He created it for the local Democrat parade float, not knowing all this year’s parades would be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He bought a small trailer so he could move the sculpture around to different locations to generate interest in the party.

Turgeon said she believes the donkey was set on fire because of what it represents and characterized it as arson

“I love this town,” Turgeon said. “So the fact that this happens in our community is just devastating. I really truly do not understand what people get out of doing things like this.”

A group of about 50 people, mostly members of the local Democratic Party, including Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham and Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, gathered at Turgeon’s home Saturday morning to show solidarity.


Joining them was Peter “Tony” Lewis, chairman of the Bowdoinham Board of Selectmen. Lewis, a Republican, is running for the State House of Representatives District 55 seat, currently held by Berry. He called the apparent arson a despicable act.

“I came out because one of the things I firmly believe in is our right to free speech and all of our rights guaranteed by the Constitution and our Bill of Rights,” Lewis said. “I think that we should be able to voice our opinions of whatever candidate or party or political approach we feel is appropriate of our generation or for our community and that’s why I’m here.”

The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office and state fire marshal’s office are investigating an apparent arson after a local artist’s artwork, a life-size donkey, was set on fire in Bowdoinham overnight. Contributed photo




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