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The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities started rounding up the Party Animals in the last week of September, some two weeks ahead of schedule. But someone had removed one donkey even sooner than that. On Sept. 7, artist Jennifer Sarkilahti brought her boyfriend’s family to Ford’s Theatre to show them Destination DC, the statue she’d decorated. But the donkey—painted in patriotic colors, with stripes cut from street maps and a star-studded rump—was missing. Only the concrete foundation remained.
“I was a little concerned at first,” Sarkilahti says, “but I also thought that perhaps they had taken it down early. Then I looked around and noticed that the other animals were still up.”
Samantha Lane, an assistant to the Party Animals project manager, says that an official with the National Park Service, which manages the historic theater site, notified her of the disappearance: “She was concerned because she didn’t know whether we had taken it or if it had gone missing.” Lane filed a report with the Metropolitan Police Department, then decided to do some detective work herself. Her suspicion, she says, is that one of the bands that had played at the nearby Hard Rock Cafe might have made off with the artwork in its van. “The donkey is about 130 pounds,” she says. “You need a van or a truck to move it. You can’t put it in just any vehicle.” An official at the restaurant declined to comment.
Lane further asserts that video-surveillance cameras at nearby FBI headquarters might have filmed the culprit in the act. The FBI, however, refuses to answer any questions related to the building’s security system. “That would reveal how our security works,” says a bureau spokesperson, “and that’s not something that’s available to the public.” —Chris Shott