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.

Monday, April 28, 2008

World's Largest Art Tractor

March 20th, 2008 - New York Mills, MN

World's Largest Art Tractor

This was our last stop on this trip. This giant tractor is located on the north side of Highway 10 in New York Mills at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center Sculpture Park. The tractor was created by Ken Nyberg out of welded steel. Nyberg has a number of other sculptures in central Minnesota, most notably at the Vining Sculpture Park. The tractor is also the logo for the Cultural Center.

World's Largest Art Tractor
Nyberg signed this piece with his welder.

New York Mills is a unique town. It's a small farming community in central Minnesota, but is very close to the many lakes of Ottertail County. New York Mills puts a high value on art and culture, lead by the Regional Cultural Center. It's claim to fame is the Great American Think-Off. The Think-Off is open to anyone and everyone and is now in it's 16th year. Contestants submit an essay on the topic for the year and a panel selects four finalists. The finalists debate the topic in New York Mills and the audience votes to decide the winner, or "America's Greatest Thinker". Past finalists have included teachers, priests, retirees, a 15 year old cheerleader, writers, and others from many states. This year's topic is “Does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?” The final debate will be June 14th.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Giant Ice Cream Cone

March 20th, 2008 - Wadena, MN

Day 2 of our trip didn't get off to a great start. It was a little colder and windier than the previous day and we were having trouble finding a 14-foot tall ice cream cone. According to a book, there should have been a 14-foot tall ice cream cone in front of Down Home Foods in Wadena. We eventually found Down Home Foods after a few trips up and down Jefferson Street, but there was no ice cream cone. The internet tells me that the ice cream cone is abandoned behind a KFC. I trusted the book. This doesn't look good for you, books, especially after the blacksmith thing. It looks like the internet beat you again. And people keep saying I should read books. (Although, had I noticed the internet and the book differed, I would have checked both.)

Photo from Roadside Architecture

The internet also provided me a picture. It's kind of a sad looking cone, like the concrete ice cream has been melting slowly for years. We aren't too concerned about missing this one. In the grand scheme of Big Stuff, this is just a tiny blip. If we find ourselves in Wadena again, we will probably try to find it again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Aitkin Blacksmith Update

According to anglerove, the blacksmith is alive and well and is now inside the new Aitkin Iron Works building. He is unsure of the blacksmith's availability for photos, however. For just a little more background, see my previous post on the subject.

Thanks again, anglerove.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Paul Bunyan Bowl

March 19th, 2008 - Baxter, MN

Paul Bunyan Bowl

This was our last stop on this long, wonderful day of Big Stuff that began with a stop in Princeton to see a Happy Chef that has found a new gig. This Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox stand outside of Paul Bunyan Bowl in Baxter, MN. The bowling alley is owned by the same family that used to own the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center, which closed in 2003, but much of it remains in use.

Bunyan Bowl

This Paul is a Muffler Man. The defining characteristic of a Muffler Man are the hands, with the right palm up and the left palm down. This type of Muffler Man is usually referred to as a Bunyan or Lumberjack Muffler Man. This Paul was previously in Sullivan, MO, where he clutched an ax. It was purchased, restored, and moved to Baxter sometime in 2003 or 2004 and now holds a bowling ball in his right hand. He also sports a lovely pair of Nike boots. I had no idea Nike made boots, especially in that size. He must have had to special order them. Babe looks to be munching on bowling pins.

Babe at the Lanes

Tip: Keep Babe away from your bowling pins.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Babe the Blue Ox

March 19th, 2008 - Brainerd, MN


This Babe used to be part of the Paul Bunyan Center in Baxter, MN. The Paul Bunyan Center opened in 1950. The centerpiece of the Center was a 26-foot tall statue of Paul Bunyan that greeted children by name. In 2003, the Center closed due to the high cost of running the park. A local business, This Old Farm, bought Paul and Babe and many of the rides and moved them out to their property 7 miles east of Brainerd. Soon the amusement park reopened as Paul Bunyan Land.

Now you see, I knew that Paul and Babe had been moved to a farm east of Brainerd. And I knew that the farm was on highway 18 somewhere. What I didn't know, or realize, was that they were still in amusement park form. I had kind of figured that they had been "saved" by somebody and moved out to their property where they would sit, undemolished. I was somewhat right. I could have figured this all out with a little bit of research, but I thought I had it all figured out already.

It turns out that Paul Bunyan Land is only open from Memorial Day through Labor Day and is closed for the winter. I guess it's just not as amusing when you can't feel your fingers. I was a little concerned that this stop on our trip might not work out, but I stand by the trip regardless. Babe stands out in the parking lot to greet visitors, so we were able to get plenty of pictures with Babe. (You can see that he still had lights on him from the holidays.) You have to pay to go inside the park to see Paul. That's fine, I like Babe better anyway.

Paul Bunyan's Cage

We tried to see if we could get a peak of something Bunyan from outside the chain-link fence, but, apparently, Paul either hibernates or is a flight risk as he is all caged up in the off season. So we didn't end up getting to see this Paul Bunyan, but we did see Babe and that's a plus. We aren't concerned about it. We can find a way to get out to Brainerd some summer and actually see Paul.

Tip: Try visting in the summer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sea Serpent

March 19, 2008 - Crosby, MN


Native American legend, or a local marketing campaign, has it that a creature named Kanabec has been living in what is now Serpent Lake. There is a seeming lack of evidence to support the existence of such a creature in Serpent Lake, but that only begs the question, what is the life expectancy of a northern Minnesota sea monster? I mean, I don't know how far back these Native American legends date, but I'm guessing that that would be one really old sea serpent if he/she were still alive today. It's likely that this serpent is now "swimming with the fishes", which makes a sighting by your average fisherman difficult.

This very colorful statue was erected in 1977 in a park on the east end of Serpent Lake. It stands about 20-feet tall.

Crosby is also home to the Viking (not the football team ... mostly) themed Nordic Inn Medieval B&B.

Here's an interesting bit of trivia about the town of Crosby that I found on Wikipedia.
"In the 1932 local elections, the voters of Crosby elected Karl Emil Nygard as President of the Village Council and thus became the first city in the United States to have a Communist mayor."

Was Kanabec a Communist? Or perhaps his/her disappearance was part of some kind of Communist cover up. We will probably never know.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Leaping Deer

March 19th, 2008 - Deerwood, MN

Giant Deer

Located on the east end of town right on Highway 210 is a large buck leaping over a log. It is approximatley 15-feet tall and 20-feet long. This is one of the more abstract big stuffs. On first look you may ask yourself, "Now why would they have a buck leaping over a log in Deerwood?" Bear with me while I try to explain this one, it's a little tricky. A buck is simply a male deer and a log is wood, so another way to look at it is a deer leaping over some wood. Deer + wood = Deerwood. I hope that was clear. It's a puzzle just as complex as the pelican by the rapids in Pelican Rapids or the three blackducks in Blackduck or the buck with a star in its antlers in Starbuck, this is a regular sized buck though.

According to my brother, the Deerwood deer was dressed in blaze orange during last year's deer hunting opener. Smart move.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Missing, Feared Dismantled - Aitkin Blacksmith

March 19th, 2008 - Aitkin, MN

We drove into Aitkin in search for a 12-ft tall blacksmith residing on top of the Aitkin Iron Works building at the corner of 1st Avenue NW and 1st Street. Missing from that location was the blacksmith and Aitkin Iron Works. According to their website, a new building was built in 1999 at 301 Bunker Hill Drive. From available photographs and satellite surveillance (Google Maps), the blacksmith does not appear to be on their new building. If you have any information on the whereabouts of this blacksmith, please contact The Big Stuff Project via the comments section.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Robin Hood

March 19th, 2008 - Garrison, MN

Robin Hood

This giant Robin Hood is located just north of Garrison on Highway 169. He stands guard over the gate to Sherwood Forest, a private RV resort. Considering that the requirements to stay at Sherwood Forest seem to be that you need to own an RV and a lot in the forest, it would appear that Robin Hood may have deserted his cause. I hope there's a good explanation, but we couldn't get him to talk.