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, August 22, 2008

Giant Ice Cream Cone

August 16th, 2008 - Wadena, MN

Wadena Ice Cream Cone

From Menahga we headed south on Highway 71 through Wadena and found the ice cream cone. We had tried to find it once before, but with no luck. We had kind of given up on it after it appeared that it had been disregarded and rundown. But, the folks at World's Largest Things spotted it on a recent trip. It has been fixed up and it looks really good.

The cone stands 14-feet tall and is made out of concrete. It is believed to have been originally built in 1973. It now stands at a private residence on the east side of Highway 71 south of Wadena, it's actually probably closer to Hewitt. It's located close to the big wind turbine, if you need a landmark. The residence also has a number of small windmills and other yard ornaments and sculptures. It seems that they sell windmills as well.

Since it was a private residence, we just pulled off the road quick, snapped a couple pictures, and bolted. Ok, we didn't bolt, but we did leave shortly in a timely manner.

After our success, we headed back into Wadena and ate at the Pizza Ranch. It was tasty. I hadn't had Pizza Ranch since college.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

St. Urho

August 16th, 2008 - Menahga, MN

St. Urho

This one is kind of strange and, for this blog, that's really saying something.

The legend of St. Urho goes that a long time ago in Finland the grape crop was being destroyed by grasshoppers. Urho drove away the grasshoppers using his booming voice by chanting "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!", which translates to "Grasshopper, grasshopper, go from hence to Hell!"

St. Urho's day is celebrated on March 16th by wearing royal purple and Nile green, drinking beer (even green and purple beer) and wine, and feasting on mojakka, which is basically just soup. The plaque below this St. Urho statue even describes a celebration where Finnish women and children gather around the shores of the many lakes in Finland and chant what St. Urho chanted. All the while, the men dress in green costumes and gather on the hills overlooking the lakes and, basically, act like grasshoppers and slowly disappear to change into purple costumes. Then the polka and drinking begins.

Now this is where it gets weird.

"What", you say, "that wasn't weird already?"

St. Urho

The legend of St. Urho can be traced as far back as the 1950's to a region known as Northern Minnesota. It seems most of those familiar with the legend credit Richard Mattson of Virginia, MN as the creator. It was in 1953 while working at Ketola's department store in Virginia when Mattson first spun his tale. He was being teased by his Irish co-workers that the Finns didn't have any great saints like St. Patrick, so Mattson made up a story about a St. Urho. The women of the store threw a party in the coffee room and Gene McCavic wrote a poem for St. Urho. And thus the legend began.

In 1956, the media got a hold of it. The local paper, the Mesabi Daily News, wrote about it and in the years since St. Urho has been featured in newspapers around the country.

The legend and holiday we know today is a little different than Richard Mattson originally told it. First of all, the celebration was originally supposed to be in May, but Finns wanted to move it to rival St. Patrick's day and get a head start on the green beer (no doubt the next day they will suddenly be Irish like most of the country). More notably, Mattson's original tale told of how Urho used his powerful voice, which he obtained by drinking "feelia sour" (sour whole milk) and "kala mojakka" (fish soup), to cast out poisonous frogs from Finland. Somehow Dr. Sulo Havumäki, a psychology professor at Bemidji State College (now Bemidji State University) had influence over the legend and the story changed to grasshoppers. Some even credit Havumäki as the creator of the legend. His name is on the plaque below the St. Urho statue.

Richard Mattson passed away in 2001, but his legend of St. Urho lives on. St. Urho's Day is celebrated in a number of Minnesota towns, including Finland, MN (they have an Urho sculpture too), and in Finnish towns across the country, like Butte, MT and Hood River, OR and several others. The legend has even spread into Canada and reached all the way back to Finland, where you can find more than one St. Urho's Pub.

In 1975, the city of Menahga commissioned a Minneapolis sculptor to carve a statue of Urho out of a 1-ton block of oak, but they got swindled. Dude must have been a contractor. In 1982, a traveling chainsaw sculptor named Jerry Ward took the block and created a 12-foot tall sculpture of St. Urho holding a pitch fork with a giant grasshopper speared on the end of it. That carving took a beating from the weather and termites and was replaced by the current fiberglass recreation. The old wood carved statue was moved to a mausoleum in a local cemetery.

For more info:
St. Urho on Wikipedia
Roadside America

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bunyan News

Brainerd's Babe the Blue Ox, at Paul Bunyan Land, is currently undergoing major renovations. The work began on July 21st and is supposed to be completed within 1 month. Josh Porter of Avalon Studios is the artist in charge of the renovation work.

It's sounds to me like Babe is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. He hits his 50's and then starts getting major work done. And I thought he had been aging rather gracefully.

Babe the Yellow Ox?
This picture was taken August 3rd.

There's a new Paul in town. This summer a new Paul Bunyan statue was put in place in the Pequot Lakes - Jenkins area. He stands 12'8" tall and was created by Josh Porter. He is located near the intersection of Highway 371 and County Road 16 by the A-Pine Restaurant.

For more information, go here. You can learn about the process for creating Paul here, it includes pictures.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pine City Voyageur

August 2nd, 2008 - Pine City, MN

Pine City Voyageur

From Mora we headed to Pine City. In Pine City's Riverside Park, on the banks of the Snake River, stands this 35-foot tall voyageur. According to a Roadside America tipster, "...the Voyageur is dedicated to the history of the early settlers of the Pine County area. It marks the city's beginnings as a trading post for the French Voyageurs and Indians."

This voyageur is a chainsaw carving and was carved from a massive redwood tree, rather than pine.....go figure, by Dennis Roghair. Some other towns probably would have had a giant cityscape carved out of pine instead to celebrate Pine City, but not this one. They went in a completely different direction and used redwood.

Pine City Voyageur

It's rather impressive in person. The sheer size of this is hard to convey with a photograph and the details are incredible. Look at the fingers. Here is a much larger version of that last photo. You can really see the details in that one.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

World's Largest Dala Horse

August 2nd, 2008 - Mora, MN

World's Largest Dala Horse

Well, it may not actually be the World's Largest Dala Horse, but I'll get to that later.

This weekend we had a family party thing with my wife's family at a cabin in the woods near Hinckley. We arrived there Friday evening and set up camp. We were tenting it for the weekend. The party wasn't until Saturday, so we figured we had some time Saturday morning to go and see 2 or 3 Big Stuffs in the area before too many people start showing up. That morning we headed out to Mora.

The Dala horse, or Dalecarlian horse or Dalahäst, is a traditional wooden statuette and toy. It is a symbol of Sweden and, more prominently, a symbol of the Dalarna region of Sweden where it is said to have originated. There is a legend that the Dala horse became the national toy in 1716 after Swedish solders fighting under King Charles XII were forced to seek quarters in homes in the Dalarna region and carved the wooden horses as gifts for their hosts.

World's Largest Dala Horse

Mora, Sweden is at the center of the Dalarna Province and the center of the Dala horse craft. Mora, Minnesota is the sister city of Mora, Sweden. In 1971, the Mora (Minnesota) Jaycees built this giant Dala horse. The plaque below the horse reads:
This is a replica of the Dalecarlian horse, hand carved in Mora, Sweden since the 1840's. It was built by the Mora Jaycees in 1971 and presented to this community as a reminder of their cultural heritage and as a tourist attraction.

This Dala horse is made from fiberglass and stands 22-feet tall, 17-feet long, and 6-feet wide and weighs about 3000 pounds. There is another Dala horse in Minot, ND that appears to be similar in size. I don't have dimensions for that one. There is a Dala horse in Avesta, Sweden that, from what information I've been able to gleam from the internet, is about 13 meters tall, which would be 42.6 feet. That would dwarf the Mora horse. It seems the moniker of "World's Largest" can be a hard thing to shed or say goodbye to, whatever the case may be, once you've been surpassed.