West Michigan, Do You Remember Big Sid?
Let's go back to the summer of 1978...If you lived in or around Standale, you spent part of your summer on the lookout for a 16-foot python (some said 20 feet). The snake was long and heavy, weighing in at 140 pounds. Imagine going outside and finding that in your yard!
All the summer excitement started on June 23rd, 1978. Big Sid was part of the Wonderful World Circus/. He was actually one of their star attractions. While the circus was staying in the Standale area, Sid escaped from his plywood and rope cage…and slithered away into the woods.
For weeks people kept an eye out for the slippery serpent. With a snake that size, Standale residents worried about their small pets and children -- they could easily become lunch for Big Sid.
With a huge snake on the loose, several businesses took advantage of the added publicity to the Standale area. LaVeen’s Department Store created “Standale: Home of Big Sid” t-shirts that sold like hotcakes. (Local t-shirt manufacturer The Mitten State re-created and sold some of these shirts for a limited time a few years back.) Other merchants named pizza or donuts after the snake.
It was Steve Rapolevich, and his wife Patty, who happened to eventually locate Big Sid. They were bicycling on Maynard Avenue around 7:30 pm on a summery Monday evening on July 24th, 1978, As they biked along, they spotted Sid. Steve stopped and grabbed the tail of the snake. He tried to hold on while his wife called the police. In all, it took six men to hold Big Sid. Word soon got out that Big Sid was being captured and quickly about 500 people gathered as they tried to capture and contain the snake.
Sid’s owner, Kenneth Heller, was grateful for all the help he had received over the weeks that Big Sid was on the loose. After Big Sid was finally captured, Heller agreed to allow Big Sid to be displayed as part of the Standale “Sid-walk” Sale that year. Many residents came out to get an up-close look a the snake they had spent weeks worrying about finding in their yard.
Big Sid's month of freedom took its toll on him. He wasn't so "big" anymore. When he was captured he weighed only 70 pounds. In the time he had been on the loose, he lost about half of his body weight, though overall he was still in pretty good health.
I've never been able to find a follow-up to find out whatever happened to Big Sid. He'd be a very old snake if he is still alive.