Tourist traps or unique art…..
For nearly 60 years, North Dakota residents have added artistic value to the sometimes bland landscape.
By Marvin Baker
There’s natural beauty in all four corners of this state if you look for it, but in some cases, people insisted they add to it as unique art or to create tourist traps.
• World’s Largest Buffalo
The first such monument was built in Jamestown in 1959. It is called the “World’s Largest Buffalo” but really isn’t a buffalo at all. It’s a replica of a North American bison, an animal that roamed this prairie for hundreds of years.
The huge bison is made out of concrete, is 26 feet tall and 46 feet long. It weighs 60 tons and is located in the Frontier Village in Jamestown.
• Earl Bunyan
This statue is a little farther off the beaten path and doesn’t get the tourists the Jamestown bison gets, but it’s there on the east side of New Town. Earl is 19 feet high but is sort of hidden behind a tree and an abandoned Greek restaurant.
In 1958, Fred LaRoque dreamed up the statue to memorialize the cattle ranchers of western North Dakota. He is dressed in blue cowboy garb with a brown hat, is taking a long stride and is holding a branding iron.
It’s unclear when Earl was finished, but it is said he is the brother of Paul Bunyan, located in Bemidji, Minn.
• Salem Sue
If you’re traveling west of Mandan on Interstate 94, you can’t miss Salem Sue at New Salem.
It’s a giant Holstein cow that was built on top a large hill just to the west of New Salem overlooking I-94.
Salem Sue is an irony, not locally, but statewide, because North Dakota now has fewer than 100 dairy farms, of which the Holstein is a symbol.
In New Salem it’s a different story. There are dairies dotted all over making Salem Sue a great ambassador for Morton County dairy farms.
Salem Sue is 30 feet high and 50 feet long and was built in 1974 in three sections for $40,000.
Legend has it that back in territorial days, farmers were busting sod when a couple of Native Americans asked them why and began turning the sod back over with the grass up. The farmers pondered that for a while and decided the land was better for grazing than growing grain and dairies began springing up.
The dairy industry is so influential in New Salem that the mascot for the high school sports team is, you guessed it, the Holsteins.
• Enchanted Highway
Further west on I-94 at the Gladstone exit, you will see a massive sculpture called “Geese in Flight.” It’s the unofficial entrance to the Enchanted Highway.
From that point south to Regent, a distance of 32 miles on Stark and Hettinger County paved roads, you’ll see various forms of metal art that was created by welder Gary Greff.
Some of Greff’s creations include the world’s largest grasshopper, the tin family, a covey of pheasants, a deer crossing and fisherman’s dream among others that include Theodore Roosevelt on a bucking bronco and the stage coach headed west.
Greff, a retired teacher, wanted to do something to help Regent so he decided to build one of his works of art every few miles that include picnic areas for tourists to enjoy.
Greff takes care of all the maintenance; mowing the lawns and touching up paint. He leases small amounts of property from local farmers and scrounges around for metal that he can use to build his next idea. He also gets donations to improve the Enchanted Highway.
Unfortunately, some people recently purchased the land the Geese in Flight are located on and told Greff to take the 110-foot art down. He sued because there was a 99-year lease in effect.
The Geese in Flight is also considered by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest sculpture of scrap metal.
• International Peace Tower
A 120-foot concrete tower that we’ve known as a symbol of peace between the United States and Canada since 1983 is gone from the International Peace Garden.
In its place is the concept of a new tower, drawn by a Winnipeg architect, that depicts peace and cooperation between the two nations. It is located above the garden’s chapel.
Located at the International Peace Garden 10 miles north of Dunseith, it’s a must see.
The garden attracts up to 100,000 visitors each year from all over the world and locally. It’s a testament to what Manitoba and North Dakota can do together.