My wife and I are on a mission to visit all the oversized local landmarks throughout Minnesota. This blog chronicles those visits and covers other related topics.

Friday, September 28, 2007

P-38 Fighter Jets

October 15th, 2006 - Owatonna, MN


This one is very cool and it makes for a great break after driving through Iowa. It's right off of I-35 north of Owatonna. It's south of the Cabela's store, which is an attraction of it's own.

Inside Cabela's you will find huge aquariums full of Minnesota fish and critter mountain, which is a fake mountain in the middle of the store scattered with dozens of different stuffed animals (the taxidermy type, not the gift shop type). There's also a giant deer statue out front.

But back to the jets (J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!). They are outside of what was Heritage Halls Transportation and Children's Museum, which is now closed. It was closed down when we stopped as well. I would imagine that it had various historical transportation stuff and children on display at the museum. The jets look nice from a distance, but you need to stand underneath them to truly appreciate it. I was amazed with how cool they are. I don't know how tall they are exactly, but they were built to withstand 100 mile-per-hour winds.



Thursday, September 27, 2007

North Dakota Map

I have been working on maps of big stuff for other states. The map of North Dakota is complete.

North Dakota map

We have not visited any of these yet. If we get the chance to we will, but the Minnesota big stuff takes priority. If you are going to be in North Dakota and want to see some big stuff, make sure to check this map first.

Markers are placed as accurately as I could possibly get. There is always a chance some of them may, or already have disappeared. If you know of any that are missing, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Iowa's Largest Frying Pan

October 15th, 2006 - Brandon, IA

Iowa's Largest Frying Pan

"Iowa?", you ask. Yes, Iowa. We aren't afraid of branching out here a bit. We call it "bonus big stuff". And, frankly, a gigantic frying pan is the perfect thing to break up the boredom that has overcome you from driving 2-3 hours across Iowa. Too bad it was so close to Cedar Rapids, our destination for the weekend.

We were on our way to a wedding in Cedar Rapids when we found out about the frying pan. There was a small, modest sign along I-380 South stating that Iowa's Largest Frying Pan was in Brandon. We didn't have time to stop because we were on a schedule, but I made a mental note of it. We were definitely stopping on the way back.

The next morning we find ourselves in Brandon at the pan. It's real easy to find. You simply get off 380 at the Brandon exit and drive across town and you'll see it. As we were there, another couple pulls in because they saw the sign (now you have Ace of Base in your head, don't you?) too. That little sign works great.

The pan was built to commemorate/promote a fund-raising breakfast the city holds to raise money for a new community center. The pan is big enough to hold 44 dozen eggs or 350 pork chops or, it looks like, about 8 people. There is a place to leave donations and they ask you to leave your name and where you are from so they can add it to their list that is posted next to the pan. This list includes many cities from all over the US and even includes many other countries, like Denmark and Nepal.

It truly is pantastic.

Monday, September 24, 2007

World's Largest Pelican

August 19th, 2006 - Pelican Rapids

World's Largest Pelican

The pelican is the oversized concrete statue of my childhood. I grew up in a town nearby and went to a rival school. I spent a lot of time in Pelican Rapids playing baseball, basketball, and at track meets, so I've had many glimpses of the pelican between the buildings downtown as we drove through town.

On this occasion, we were on our way to visit my parents. It was another gorgeous day so we parked on Broadway and walked down a boardwalk to the Pelican. We have since made 2 or 3 other stops at the Pelican, once with ice cream and another time (after Thanksgiving) because he was sporting a scarf and hat that were in the school colors.

World's Largest Pelican with hat and scarf

The Pelican stands on a platform at the base of the Mill Pond Dam at the headwaters of the Pelican River. This August the 15.5 foot tall concrete bird celebrated it's 50th birthday. He looks pretty good for 50 (and a little bit menacing).

Tips: I recommend getting some ice cream in a waffle cone at Scoops on 1st Ave and walking across the street and down a short alley to the park. There you can enjoy the view from on top of the nicely landscaped dam while you enjoy your ice cream.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rocky Taconite

July 25th, 2006 - Silver Bay, MN

Rocky Taconite

One more stop along the north shore before we reach our destination, and it's certainly a favorite. Rocky Taconite, a cartoonish looking fellow, was built out of steel storage tanks to honor taconite, the ore that saved America's steel industry, and the people who discovered that you could extract iron from it. The steel industry was in trouble when the pure iron ores in the Mesabi Iron Range where being exhausted until they learned that this extraction from taconite was possible. Since taconite is abundant in the area, the Mesabi Range was saved. Rocky is perched on top of a giant slab of taconite.

He really should have his own Saturday morning cartoon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pierre the Voyageur

July 25th, 2006 - Two Harbors, MN

Pierre the Voyageur

Two Harbors is the city where the 3M company started and where sandpaper was invented, 3M's first product. But that's not why we're here. We're here because it is on the way to the Gunflint Lodge (which I highly recommend if you're looking for a northwoods vacation). We stopped here, however, to find some food and some big stuff.

As you first pull into Two Harbors on highway 61, you find an oversized rooster along the road in front of a gift shop. Stop. Take a picture. Everybody's doing it. Further along your way through town you will come across a giant french trapper named Pierre.

Pierre has seen better days. The infamous Minnesota winters have taken a toll on him. He once had working mechanical features in his face. He once was grasping a paddle in his right hand. He never, however, had pants. He probably regretted that decision once November rolled around.

Pierre is one in a number of voyageur statues in northern Minnesota. We've already met Big Louie and heard about Big Vic in Ranier. The cities of Cloquet, Crane Lake, and Pine City also have giant voyageurs.

Tip: If you have some time you can spend in Two Harbors, check out the harbor. You can check out the lighthouse and walk along the shores of Lake Superior. If you plan ahead, you can stay in the lighthouse at the Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast.

Two Harbors 10
Two Harbors 01

Another Tip: I have recently found out that there are a couple large chainsaw sculptures near Two Harbors. I don't know where exactly, but if you can find them you should check them out.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Big Louie

July 25th, 2006 - Barnum, MN

Big Louie

On our way to the Gunflint Lodge in northern Minnesota near the BWCA for our honeymoon, we come across Big Louie. The story behind Big Louie is the best story I have ever heard about the creation of a big stuff. It may just be the greatest story ever.

Big Louie was the brainchild of Vic Davis. Davis was the owner of Cranberry Island in Rainy Lake. In the late 1970's, the U.S. Park Service wanted to take away his island to make it part of Voyageurs National Park. Davis wasn't giving it up without a fight. He began by selling small parcels of the land to his friends in order to complicate legal efforts to confiscate the land. Then he ordered a 25-foot replica of himself, dressed in voyageur clothing with a giant musket, and placed it on his island, complete with a picnic area. He named this giant Big Vic, the Protest Colossus.

The Park Service was not pleased and reacted. They fined the helicopter pilot for violating Canadian airspace while delivering Big Vic and eventually mounted an amphibious landing, confiscating Big Vic and kicking Davis off of the island.

The Park Service would not return Big Vic unless Davis agreed not to re-erect it and instead paid him a fraction of what it was worth and considered it settled. Davis then took that money and ordered a second one, Big Louie, the Clone. In 1982 he mounted Big Louie next to the Voyageurs Visitor's Center.

The feds threatened to seize Big Louie too, but Davis, having already made his point, took Big Louie down. The U.S. District Court ordered the government to pay Davis $90,000 for the island, and the case was closed.

But now the Park Service and Davis each had a 25-foot statue that they didn't want. The Park Service donated Big Vic to the town of Ranier and Davis sold Big Louie to a restaurant in Barnum. The statues still remain at these locations.

Source: Oddball Minnesota

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

World's Largest Otter

July 4th, 2006 - Fergus Falls, MN

World's Largest Otter

After seeing Big Ole in Alexandria, we had one more stop before we hit the lake. That was Adams Park in Fergus Falls to see the World's Largest Otter. The otter is 40 feet long and was built to honor Ottertail County, where Fergus Falls is the county seat. The otter is also the high school mascot.


Tip: When visiting the World's Largest Otter, keep an eye out for roaming gangs of geese. I don't think they will rob you, but they're not afraid to put up a fight. We barely got out alive.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Map

I created a map using Google Maps to mark all of the big stuff. I placed each marker as accurately as possible. I believe most of them are really close to where the big stuff actually are. You can plan your next trip around big stuff! The green tacks mark the ones we have been to and the yellow balloons are targets we have yet to see. I will eventually make maps for other states. Some are close to done already. I might actually make maps for every state. Stay tuned.

View Larger Map

If the markers don't appear, click on "View Larger Map".

Big Ole

July 4th, 2006 - Alexandria, MN

Big Ole

It's the 4th of July and we are heading to my aunt's house on South Turtle Lake near Underwood, MN. We decide to leave early so we have some time to stop and see some big stuff on the way. It was a beautiful summer day as we pulled into Alexandria on our way to see Ole Oppe, it was maybe a little on the cool side but it was still the morning.

Alexandria claims to be "The Birthplace of America". It's a claim that is surrounded by a bit of a controversy and perhaps a bit of conspiracy. It dates back to 1898 when a farmer in nearby Kensington found a 28ft viking statue with this claim written on it tangled in the roots of a tree in his field.

That doesn't sound right. Hold on. Ah yes, he found a very large stone with some strange writing on it tangled in the roots of a tree in his field. It turned out to be a viking runestone that proved the vikings were in Minnesota before Columbus had thought he landed in India. Many people believed this to be a fake. Others believed that it was real. Controversy swelled and the farmer's family was ostracized. The Smithsonian had even showed interest in the runestone and even had it on display in Washington. Later the Smithsonian denounced the runestone and returned it a bit scratched up by their "experts". (Expert thugs if you ask me.) Is the Smithsonian right and the runestone is a fake? Or are they involved in a pro-Columbus cover-up? We may never know.

Big Ole stands to acknowledge Alexandria's claim. He is displayed in a small park about a block from the Runestone Museum.

On the way out of town we stopped and bought some ice cream treats. See, ice cream and big stuff!

Monday, September 17, 2007

World's Largest Fishing Bobber

June 18th, 2006 - Our first stop for the project.
World's Largest Fishing Bobber
We went to visit my wife's grandfather at his home near Nisswa, which is also very close to Pequot Lakes. In the afternoon we had some time to get away and head into Pequot Lakes. While there we went into a couple gift shoppy type places, got some ice cream, and looked at a big stuff. Ice cream and big stuff is a combination we really like. Pelican Rapids is also a great place for ice cream and big stuff.

The World's Largest Fishing Bobber, or Paul Bunyan's Fishing Bobber as I've also seen it called (I don't know why Paul would write Pequot Lakes on his fishing bobber, but ok.), was the city's water tower until 2000 when it was replaced. The fishing bobber still stands, obviously, but is empty.

This is The Big Stuff Project

After doing a lot of searching the internet for information about these big things and looking at pictures on flickr from many people who also photograph these things, I decided to start a blog in an attempt to share the information I may have. It seems that a lot of people love these things and the more information available the better.

So what is The Big Stuff Project?

A couple years ago my wife (then fiance) said that she wanted to visit all of the large, odd statues, monuments, art pieces, or whatever you want to call them (we call them "big stuff" or the plural "big stuffs"), throughout the state of Minnesota. I was completely on board. This has become our Big Stuff Project.

We have already knocked quite a few off of our list, but Minnesotans seem to love these things and we have a long ways to go. I guess I'll start this blog by jumping in the way-back machine and revisting the big stuff we have already been to.

Welcome to anyone who is reading this. *crickets*