Paul Has Made A Comeback
Actually, he was never really gone, of course. But, over the past twenty years or so, the big logger, his legends and just about anything that can be connected to him or made up about him has begun showing up in communities all around the Byway area, and even beyond!
Lots of people are thinking about Paul Bunyan, coming up with ideas that play off the Bunyan lore and enhance our area in the process. From its inception over ten years ago
the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association has been cheerleading for ‘all things Paul’.
You may have wondered who thought of the Paul Bunyan things you see along and around the Byway every day. After a Bunyan-sized number of calls and the jostling of a lot of people’s stored memories, here are some of the stories.
Paul Bunyan statue at A-Pine Restaurant
When the Paul Bunyan Amusement Park closed and the big Paul Bunyan that had faced Highway 371 for years, waving a welcome to thousands of families, left town on a flat bed trailer, A-Pine owners Rick and Leah Beyer started tossing around the idea of having a Paul Bunyan at their place….facing Highway 371, waving that familiar welcome. Then, as the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway developed and it was clear that Paul Bunyan was becoming the overwhelming presence in the area, Rick got together with Josh Porter of Avalon Studios and came up with a Paul Bunyan design that fulfilled the dream of welcoming folks once again, even though it was a few miles north of the site of the original ‘Bunyan hello’. Last year, Paul Bunyan took his place in the park area on the north side of the restaurant.
Paul Bunyan’s big hammer in front of Ace Hardware, Crosslake
Store owner, Dave Barnes, wanted a Paul Bunyan-sized tool made out of the trunk of the tree that stands in front of the store. He had several tools in mind, but choose the hammer when Rippin’ Into Wood, the company that did the carving, suggested creating off-site, a wooden piece for the hammer head and attaching it to the tree trunk that was to become the hammer handle.
Paul Bunyan’s ice cream cone in front of Crafts and Cones, Crosslake
There’s coffee available every morning too, but owner Pat Netko, touts the great ice cream at her store with a Paul Bunyan sized ice cream cone that lures Byway travelers in for a sweet treat. Oh, yes, the big cone was her idea!
Paul Bunyan’s bobber (water tower)
Back in 1986 Pequot’s water tower needed paint. But, Lou Hoglund of Echo Publishing, had a different idea. Instead of just another paint job, why not turn that easily visible water tower into some kind of tourist attraction. He offered the suggestion at a Pequot Lakes City Council meeting. Council member, Jeff Brush, made a motion to move forward with the idea. The motion passed, and things were off and running. Lou and Jeff shared the idea with Pequot Lakes art teacher, Dave Guenther. First thoughts were going in the direction of a beanpot. But, instead, Dave suggested a contest, asking the Pequot Lakes School students to submit some repainting design ideas for the water tower. The winning design, submitted by elementary student, Nathan Burns, is the bobber you see today. The transformation of the water tower was completed in plenty of time to welcome the crowds for the 1989 Governor’s Fishing Opener and has been a local attraction ever since.
Big Paul Rag Doll
This idea was cooked up by fabric artist, Marilyn Lee, and craftsman, Kenny Kraeplin, both from near Bemidji, MN. Byway Association board member and Paul Bunyan memorabilia collector, Wayne Chamberlain, negotiated the donation of the Paul doll and his chair. The Big Paul Rag Doll oversees the Byway Exhibits at the Crosslake Corps of Engineers Administrative Building, occasionally leaving for parades and events.
Paul Bunyan’s Big Chair
Lots of brains got in on this one! Community ideas ranged from creating retail or dining here to removing the building, adding a big chair and developing a park. Tim Leagjeld created a design that included a Big Paul Bunyan Chair and entire parkscape for the area. It struck the right chord and now, Paul’s Big Chair is indeed a head-turner for people coming through town and is a great addition to the Byway and the community!
Paul Bunyan’s Baby Boots at the Pine River Chamber Building
As many know, there are really two sets of baby boots here. The little wooden baby boots inside the Chamber building were the clever idea of John and Jackie Wetrosky following a trip they took to Holland, famous for wooden shoes, of course. Wood carver, Jerry Keen, from Walker, MN, turned their idea into reality and the boots became an instant hit, providing a unique photo opportunity. The second pair of baby boots is a more recent addition and sits outside the Chamber building. The idea for these bigger boots was hatched by Pine River art teacher, Wayne Shilson. He designed and created the boots, providing yet another great incarnation of Paul Bunyan footwear along the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.
Based on the size of those recently crafted baby boots, fourteen feet long by five feet wide, Paul Bunyan’s footprints will appear this summer at seven locations along the Byway route. The Paul Bunyan footprints project resulted from ideas collected from the Byway jurisdictions, the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association, and the Pequot Lakes Park Board. Cathy Malecha, former Pequot Lakes mayor, is coordinating this project.
If you can add anything to these community stories or if you’ve had Paul Bunyan on your mind lately, don’t be shy about sharing your ideas! Contact the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association.