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Long Island's quirky landmarks

Popeye advertises spinach at the Hayground Market farm

Popeye advertises spinach at the Hayground Market farm stand in Bridgehampton. The family that owns the stand has farmed on Long Island since the 1600s, one family member says. Popeye appears in the spring and then again in the fall, to coincide with the spinach crops. (Sept. 2012) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Every town has its quirky characters, longtime denizens that lend a place its charm and local color. As it happens, Long Island is awash in eccentric figures, literally.

From Glen Cove to Montauk, strange statues, carvings and effigies dot the island's landscape, decorating shops and farm fields, and offering memorable sightseeing for residents and passersby alike.

Take the life-size sculpture of Popeye, which sits atop a tractor — pipe between lips, watering can in hand — at the Hayground Market farm stand in Bridgehampton.

"He's there to advertise our spinach," said Lorraine Reeve, whose family has farmed hundreds of acres on Long Island since the 1600s. "He comes out in the spring, and then we put him away until fall, when the next crop of spinach comes out."

There are the two jousting swordsmen who stand on either side of a road that leads to Casa Basso, an Italian restaurant in Westhampton. The 12-foot statues, along with a nearby castle and Roman lion, are the handiwork of Theophilus Brouwer, an artist who lived and worked on the property in the late 19th century. Each year, said Bejto Bracovic, the restaurant's owner, some piece of a swordsman breaks off. But Bracovic always fixes it.

"I get customers in their 80s and 90s who remember these statues," he said.

In Shirley, Mastic and Mastic Beach, small bronze statues are sprinkled around town: outside a library, a seniors' nutrition center and a gas station. There are 25 statues in all, said Pat Matthews, chairwoman of the William Floyd Community Summit, who discovered the figurines in Atlantic City and brought them home to beautify Long Island.

Most are children; some read, others play checkers, and one lucky kid rides on the back of a giant turtle.

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