UpNorth Minnesota Spring 2021 - Page 21

Submitted by John Magnoski

Unusual Places Up North to Explore


North minnesota


Minnesota is home to several unique and unusual attractions that you will not find anywhere else , from the world ’ s largest Viking sculpture to a futuristic climate study . Here are five sites worth visiting .

Big Ole
It ’ s hard to miss Alexandria ’ s giant 28-foot tall , three-ton Viking standing guard over the city ’ s downtown . A fiberglass sculptor named Gordon Schumaker built the Viking statue in 1965 for the New York World ’ s Fair . Big Ole was erected to accompany the world famous Kensington Runestone to the Fair . ( More about the Runestone later .)
The Viking ’ s shield reads , “ Alexandria : Birthplace of America .” This claim is not unfounded as the Runestone was discovered near Alexandria in 1898 with etchings from 1362 which turned the “ Columbus discovered America in 1492 ” story upside down .
The statue was shipped to Alexandria after the Fair closed and was stationed on a traffic island on the north end of Broadway Street . It remained at that location until 2002 , when moved a couple of blocks north to the shores of Lake Agnes .
Today , Big Ole stands guard at Central Park near the trailhead of the Central Lakes Trail just north of Downtown Alexandria . Big Ole is a signature attraction of the city and a popular photo stop .
Big Ole was a hit when erected , but has had anything but an easy life . Since being displayed in Alexandria , the Viking giant has been shot with flaming arrows , disarmed by vandals , and knocked down by the wind . However , each time the statue is damaged , the city comes to the aid by providing repairs . In 2015 , the town raised $ 26,000 for Big Ole ’ s repair after an inspection uncovered numerous cracks in its body . The total makeover was completed in August 2016 .
The giant Viking statue stands as a reminder of the locally beloved belief that Nordic explorers came to the area in the 1300s .
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