Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
Statues such as these served to attract passers-by in automobiles as cars gained popularity through the 1920s and 1930s.
|Location||Third St. and Bemidji Ave.
Bemidji, Beltrami Country, Minnesota
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||Cyril M. Dickinson; Jim Payton|
|Governing body||City of Bemidji|
|NRHP Reference #||88000204|
|Added to NRHP||March 10, 1988|
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are the names of a pair of large statues of the American folk hero Paul Bunyan and his ox, located in Bemidji, Minnesota. This roadside attraction has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988. Much like the architecture found in such structures as the Benewah Milk Bottle, the Teapot Dome Service Station or the comparably colossal Dinosaur Park sculptures in South Dakota, it served to attract the attention of motorists passing by and coincided with the dramatic rise in the popularity of automobiles.
The city of Bemidji is located in a vast woodland and lake region. As early as the 1890s the town saw a modest tourist trade. When rail connections came to Bemidji, in 1898, promoters began the development of lakeshore sites for cottages, hotels and resorts. Most of these resorts catered to hunters and anglers. In the 1920s the rise in automobile popularity contributed to a significant boom in Bemidji's tourist industry, but it, along with the rest of the economy, suffered during the Great Depression. Enter Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
As a means of stimulating tourism in Bemidji a number of local, civic organizations sponsored a winter carnival meant to hype the city's resources for winter sports. Due to Bemidji's once prominent status as a logging and lumbering center the celebrations focused on Paul Bunyan, the larger-than life lumberjack who is an American folk hero. On January 14, 1937 the carnival opened with Earl L. Grinols, Sr. the carnival king. The onset of the carnival brought the unveiling of two giant statues, one of Bunyan and the other of his giant blue ox, Babe; the pair would serve as carnival mascots. Babe was brought into town on a Grinols Implement & Fuel Co. truck arranged so that its exhaust exited through Babe's nostrils.
In March 2006, the Rotary Club of Bemidji raised $53,000 and along with a $68,000 federal grant set about to repair some damage to the statues. In addition the money was to be used in maintenance with the majority slated for stabilizing the ground beneath the statues, to lessen shifting in freezing temperatures. The work also focused on a 1-inch-wide (25 mm) crack in Babe from the neck to the hindquarters which continued to widen despite yearly fixes by the city with caulk and blue paint.
Paul Bunyan is approximately 18 feet (5.5 m) tall and measures 5 feet (1.5 m) across at his base. From toe to heel, Paul Bunyan measures 3 feet (0.91 m). The Blue Ox, Babe, is about 10 feet (3 m) tall and 8 feet (2.4 m) across at the front hooves. From nose to tail, Babe measures about 23 feet (7.0 m).
In popular culture
- The statues are featured in the first season of the FX series Fargo. While mainly pictured on Bemidji's welcome sign throughout the season, the statues make their physical debut in the episode "A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage". In the episode, the statues, while accurate in design, are depicted as smaller, life-size statues standing upon tall pedestals and located next to some railroad tracks instead of on the lake shore.
- The statues are featured in the 2014 film Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Determining the Facts Reading 1: Representational Architecture, Roadside Attractions, National Park Service.
- Determining the Facts Reading 3: The Roadside Colossus, Roadside Attractions, National Park Service.
- Babe the Blue Ox gets fed highway funding, UPI, March 14, 2006. retrieved Dec. 2010