Bemidji Celebrates Paul Bunyan’s 75th Birthday

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Both “born” around the same time in 1937, Bemidji’s hulking lakeside tributes to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are receiving special attention as the town declares 2012 “The Year of the Legend.” The statues, which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, are Bemidji’s most recognizable icons, and are Exihibit A when Minnesotans argue their homeland as the birthplace of America’s tallest tall tale.

From the Bemidji Pioneer:

[Mayor Dave] Larson, who read a brief history of the statue and some tall tales about Paul Bunyan, made the proclamation at a kick-off event Friday afternoon at the Tourist Information Center, where colorful birthday cards from school classrooms were easy to spot because they were Paul Bunyan-sized.

“…Wayne Chamberlain, as Paul Bunyan, made an appearance to share historical information about the origins of the legend in a presentation titled ‘Paul Bunyan the Legend: Fact or Fiction?’

“Many books, photos and figurines are part of the exhibit, as well as apparel, records, VHS tapes and DVDs, pins, buttons, collector plates, mugs, posters, banners, playing cards and many other items. A sculpture of Paul and Babe, sculpted by Sharon Forberg and Joann Heinen, is under glass and a giant Bemidji Woolen Mills red-and-black plaid jacket hangs on the wall. Some unusual items include a Paul Bunyan jack-in-the-box, a Paul Bunyan Log Builders Construction Set (similar to Lincoln Logs) and a General Electric Show ‘N’ Tell Phono Viewer, a combination turntable and filmstrip viewer, with a Show ‘N’ tell Picturesound program featuring Paul Bunyan.

To celebrate, the city is holding a year’s worth of Paul and Babe themed displays and activities. The Beltrami County Historical Society is calling for photographs of people standing next to the statues, in hopes of eventually turning the images into one giant (because everything must be giant) collage. Surely, every good Midwesterner has at least a few photos of themselves leaning up against oversized birds, fish or vikings.


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