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A Springfield Public Works crew rotates the Tumbler on the first day of summer, June 21.
Photo provided by Downtown Springfield Association
A Springfield Public Works crew rotates the Tumbler on the first day of summer, June 21.

Opinion: Community story key to development

Truth be Told

Posted online

At the start of each season, Springfield’s Park Central Square looks a little different.

You can thank the Tumbler for that. The twisted, brown steel structure has graced the square since 1971, but the artist’s intention for the piece wasn’t known for 40 years, says Public Works Assistant Director Martin Gugel.

In artist Aris Demetrios’ words, the sculpture was to be “ever new,” that is, at the start of each season, it was to be rotated to a different orientation. It has up to 12 positions.

Armed with the history of the piece, in 2012, the city started tumbling the sculpture.

Gugel says crews place chains on The Tumbler in a certain way, so that when it is lifted, the piece rotates. It’s usually the same crew that handles this job, he says, to avoid duplicating a recent position.

Recently, on the first day of summer, it tumbled again.

I love these tumble days – especially the summer twist. It coincides with an event The Coffee Ethic puts on called Tumble for Springfield, now in its second year.

Following last year’s first-day-of-summer turn, a plaque was dedicated near the Tumbler so passersby can learn the history of the sculpture.

Included on the plaque is a memorial to Tom Billionis, who with his wife Michelle opened The Coffee Ethic on the square in 2007.  His family, and the community who respected him, lost Tom too soon when he died unexpectedly in April 2016.

Tom loved the sculpture, Michelle says, especially when he learned the artist was Greek, like him.

Opening the coffee shop on the square 11 years ago was a risk, Michelle says on a recent morning at the shop, noting that she and Tom were not risk takers.

“Nothing else was open facing the square,” she says. “We just came here and said, ‘Please, Lord, let this work.’”

The Coffee Ethic started the annual event to coincide with the summer tumble to give back to the community and honor Tom, whose June 21 birthday falls on or near the first day of summer. This year, they donated the day’s nearly $3,000 profits to Harmony House.

“This allows us to redirect our thoughts to something positive,” Michelle says.

She says her husband of 20 years was an ordinary, genuine guy who liked to help people. Since his passing, the crew at The Coffee Ethic has grown the shop and have added a coffee roaster.

Incorporating the Tumbler into the story of The Coffee Ethic seemed natural, Michelle says. You can see the sculpture clearly through the windows in the front of the business. The sculpture will even be part of an upcoming menu redesign.

This year’s tumble had me thinking about economic development.

In my role at Springfield Business Journal, I follow a calendar of topics for the Focus sections. I’ve recently tackled tourism, government and in this issue, health care. Next up is economic development.

I’m not an expert, but to me, economic development can be boiled down to how well we can tell the story of our community.

Industry leaders must sell this story to recruit businesses and professionals, and of course we must have the infrastructure to back it up.

But as a young professional who’s put down roots in this city, stories like the Tumbler and The Coffee Ethic are what make me proud to call Springfield home.

Gugel says since the revitalization on the square in 2010, the Tumbler, known as downtown’s original piece of public art, inspired Sculpture Walk Springfield and gained exposure for the “aesthetic of downtown.”

This community is developed on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us – people who took risks to make this city what it is today and set it up for what it can be tomorrow.
Appreciating the history and stories of the people that got us here will be the engine that keeps moving us forward.

Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Christine Temple can be reached at


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