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.

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


Mykl Roventine said...

I always wondered what BL's story was. Fascinating! I can't wait to visit his twin...

LizardLad said...

This story made me laugh to near death. I was just looking for another statue to add to my photo album, and I found this one on the way to a wedding (leaving from International Falls). I currently work for the Park, and as soon as I looked at this picture of Big Louie I said dang that looks just like the Rainer Voyageur. Well now it makes perfect sense. Thanks for posting the story and picture!

Josh said...

We will actually be going to see Big Vic in Ranier next week. We're staying at Nelson's Resort on Crane Lake for a few days and will see a bunch of big stuff on our way and after we leave.