RIPON – It was a happy day in Ripon for the people who bring you a Happy Meal.
The fast food restaurant’s iconic statue is back, nearly nine months after it was stolen.
Tucked away in a storage locker at the Green Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Ronald McDonald is on the way home.
“Weren’t sure we were going to get him back, but we’re happy to see him. We’re excited to get him back,” said Jack King, who owns the McDonald’s in Ripon.
King says he got the call Sunday night that Ronald may have been found.
“We came down and identified him. Did a positive identification. I could tell right away that it was our Ronald, because he had shown some weathering effects on his shoes. I knew right away it was our statue,” said King.
Authorities say that statue was found Saturday at a campground in southern Green Lake County.
“The statue was brought to the campground, and then obviously individuals were having fun with it. Probably in celebration of the 4th of July,” said Mark Putzke, Green Lake County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy.
Concerned campers called the sheriff’s office.
“When the deputy staff arrived, they encountered an individual who had custody of the statue. He was cooperative. Stated that the statue had been found in a field some time ago. He was cooperative, and then just turned it over,” said Putzke.
Ronald made an appearance at the Ripon restaurant, but King says the $2,500 statue won’t stay there.
“Right now, we’re going to have him refurbished, and probably use him for special occasions. We’re not going to display him out front again,” said King.
The sheriff’s office says it will not recommend charges against the camper.
“It appears this was an honest recovery, and he was not in possession of stolen property,” said Putzke.
Meanwhile the legend of what happened continues to grow.
“I think if Ronald could talk, he would probably have quite a story to tell. So I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I guess we can speculate a lot, and make up our own story as time goes on,” said King.
Investigators say they are still looking for whoever took Ronald in the first place.