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Minnesota Marvels

Roadside Attractions in the Land of Lakes

2001
Author:

Eric Dregni

Minnesota Marvels

A humorous guide to the offbeat and bizarre attractions along Minnesota’s highways.

Only in Minnesota can you snap a Polaroid of a fifty-five-foot-tall grinning green man with a size seventy-eight shoe or marvel at the spunk of a Swede who dedicated his life to spinning a gigantic ball of twine. Minnesota Marvels is a tour of the inspired, bizarre, sometimes gruesome, brilliant, scandalous, and funny sites around the state. Conveniently organized by town name and illustrated throughout, Minnesota Marvels is the perfect light-hearted guide for entertaining road trips.

A tour of the inspired, bizarre, brilliant, scandalous and funny sites around the state. Conveniently organized by town name and illustrated throughout, Minnesota Marvels is the perfect light-hearted guide to entertaining road trips all over Minnesota.

Grand Forks Herald

Only in Minnesota can you snap a Polaroid of a fifty-five-foot-tall grinning green man with a size seventy-eight shoe or marvel at the spunk of a Swede who dedicated his life to spinning a gigantic ball of twine. The world’s largest hockey stick, as well as the biggest pelican, prairie chicken, turkey, fish, otter, fox, and loon also make Minnesota their home. Where else can you ponder the mysterious "miracle meat" of Spam in a museum dedicated to pork products or have your head examined by the phrenology machines at the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices?

Minnesota Marvels is a tour of the inspired, bizarre, brilliant, scandalous, and funny sites around the state. Look up in wonder at the several Paul Bunyan statues, including the original (Bemidji), the tallest (Akeley), and the largest talking version (Brainerd). Ease on down the road to visit the first home of the heel-tapping native of Grand Rapids, Judy Garland, or walk the "main street" of Sauk Centre immortalized by native son Sinclair Lewis. See the birthplaces of Charles Lindbergh, the Mayo brothers, the Greyhound bus, the snowmobile, and the ice-cream sandwich.

Minnesota is also the home of such attractions as the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the world’s largest aerial lift bridge in Duluth, and architectural wonders such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s modernist gas station in Cloquet and Frank Gehry’s arresting Weisman Art Museum. Stunning mansions with histories of ghost sightings, the hangouts and lairs of infamous gangsters, and old-fashioned breweries dot the state.

Conveniently organized by town name and illustrated throughout, Minnesota Marvels is the perfect light-hearted guide for entertaining road trips all over the state.

Minnesota Marvels

Eric Dregni is a freelance journalist, translator, and author of four books, including The Ads That Put America on Wheels (1996) and Scooter Mania! (1998). He lives in the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Marvels

A tour of the inspired, bizarre, brilliant, scandalous and funny sites around the state. Conveniently organized by town name and illustrated throughout, Minnesota Marvels is the perfect light-hearted guide to entertaining road trips all over Minnesota.

Grand Forks Herald

I’ve heard the middle of the country described as ‘flyover territory,’ and if that’s true it’s good, then, that many of the scattered monuments chronicled by Dregni in his book are big enough to see from Mars. Roll back the moon roof, pump up the jam and buckle up as we swing past many of the ‘world’s largest’ spectacles.

North County News

Throughout the pages of this tome, author Eric Dregni takes us on a virtual tour of Minnesota’s most funky monuments.

The Redwood Gazette

Minnesota Marvels is a travel guide with flair, a slightly off-center description of the sites that make this state unique. Nicely organized by town name, Eric Dregni’s travel guide offers a democratic collection of the state’s finest ‘marvels,’ many not found in standard tourist literature.

The Ripsaw News

The book is perfect for adventurous road-trippers or Americana devotees.

Utne

Try out Minnesota Marvels if you’re planning a road trip.

The New Ulm Journal

Minnesota Marvels

Contents

Map of Minnesota Marvels
Minnesota Marvels by Region
Author’s Note
Acknowledgments

Introduction

Minnesota Marvels
Akeley
World’s Largest Paul Bunyan/ 3
Birthplace of Paul Bunyan
Albert Lea
Itasca Rock Garden/ 4
Castles and Trolls
Alexandria
Kensington Runestone/ 7
Birthplace of America
Austin
The Spam Museum/ 11
The “Miracle Meat” Mecca
Beaver Bay
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park/ 14
On the Lake They Call Gitchee Gumee
Belle Plaine
Home of the Two-Story Outhouse/ 18
Historic Privy Skyscraper
Bemidji
Fireplace of the States / 20
Stones from Sea to Shining Sea
The Original Paul Bunyan/ 22
Symbol of the American Worker
Bena
Big Fish Supper Club/ 25
Drive-In Muskie
Bloomington
The Mall of America/ 28
Shopping Space Station
Thunderbird Motel / 30
Totem Pole Dining Room and Pow-wow Lounge
Blue Earth
The Jolly Green Giant / 33
Shoe Size: 78, Smile: 48 Inches Long
Bongards
Humongous Holstein/ 36
Milk the Fiberglass Cow
Brainerd
Paul Bunyan Amusement Center / 38
World’s Largest Talking Paul Bunyan
Burnsville
Fantasuite Hotel / 42
“Blast Off in Our Space Capsule Waterbed!”
Calumet
Hill Annex Mine/ 45
The Open Pit Mine Tour
Chisholm
Ironworld Discovery Center / 47
The Concentrator, the Agglomerator, and the Pelletizer
Cloquet
Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station/ 51
Fill ’er Up with Modernism
Cold Spring
Grasshopper Chapel / 55
Miraculous Salvation from an Insect Swarm
Crosby
Nordic Inn Medieval B & B/ 58
Viking Valhalla
Darwin
World’s Largest Ball of Twine/ 63
Man’s Dream Realized
Delano
Blue-Eyed Chicken/ 67
“Famous across the Nation”
Duluth
Glensheen Mansion/ 69
Murder Estate
William A.Irvin Steamer / 73
The Big Tour
World’s Largest Aerial Lift Bridge/ 75
Elevator to the Heavens
Embarrass
The Nation’s Cold Spot / 77
“Freeze Yer Gizzard”
Eveleth
U.S.Hockey Hall of Fame/ 80
World’s Largest Hockey Stick
Excelsior
Minnehaha Streetcar Boat / 83
Raised from the Deep
Fergus Falls
World’s Largest Otter / 86
Part Jungle Gym, Part Sculpture
Frazee
World’s Largest Turkey / 88
Tons of Roast Meat
Garrison
Walleye Capital of the World/ 90
Happy Fishing Grounds
Grand Rapids
Judy Garland Tour / 92
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Hackensack
Home of Paul Bunyan’s Sweetheart / 95
Robert Frost Roadside Attraction
Harmony
Crystal Wedding Chapel / 98
Underground Eloping in Niagara Cave
Hibbing
Greyhound Bus Origin Center / 100
“From Hibbing to Everywhere!”
World’s Largest Open Pit Iron Ore Mine/ 105
Near the Town That Moved
Hinckley
Fire Museum/ 107
In the Former “Town Built of Wood”
International Falls
Grand Mound/ 110
Prehistoric Colossus in Frostbite Falls
Kellogg
Lark Toy Museum/ 113
“Ticky Tack Tourist Trap”
Lake City
The Home of Waterskiing/ 116
Ralph Samuelson: Daredevil of the Waves
Le Sueur
W.W.Mayo House/ 119
Microscope Saves the World
Lindstrom
Little Sweden/ 121
Välkommen till Lindström
Little Falls
Charles Lindbergh House/ 125
The Lone Eagle’s Hideaway
Madison
Lutefisk Capital,U.S.A. / 128
Lye-Soaked Manna
Menagha
Saint Urho,Scourge of Grasshoppers / 130
Patron Saint of Finland
Minneapolis
Bakken Library and Museum/ 133
Electric Eels and X Rays Can Cure Anything
The Band Box / 136
Fasten the Turnbuckles and Serve up Supper
Fort Snelling/ 140
Minnesota’s First Tourist Destination
Minnehaha Falls / 143
Lovers’ Rendezvous
Foshay Tower / 146
Minnesota’s Washington Monument
Lake Harriet Trolley and Museum/ 148
The Mob and GM Dismantle the Streetcars
Museum of Questionable Medical Devices / 151
From Radium Massages to Electroshock Therapy
Ray Crump’s Baseball Hall of Fame/ 155
Build It and They Will Come
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Loring Park/ 158
Cherry Spoon and Glass Fish
Weisman Art Museum/ 160
Not Another Brick Lump
Mora
World’s Largest Dala Horse/ 163
Swedish Craft, American Style
Nevis
World’s Largest Tiger Muskie/ 166
Into the Mouth of the Beast
New Ulm
Little Deutschland/ 168
Lederhosen, Schnitzel, and Beer
New York Mills
Art Park and Philosophy Parade/ 175
Home of the Great American Think-Off
Northwest Angle
Fort St.Charles / 177
The Life of an Angle-ite
Olivia
Corn Capital / 179
World Capital Intrigue
Pelican Rapids
World’s Largest Pelican/ 182
“A Part of All of Us”
Pequot Lakes
Paul Bunyan’s Fishing Bobber / 185
Relics of the Giant
Pine City
Perseverance the Voyageur / 189
World’s Largest Chainsaw Sculpture?
Ranier
Big Vic the Voyageur / 192
The Protest Statue
Redwood Falls
Lower Sioux Agency Historic Site/ 197
“Let Them Eat Grass!”
Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame/ 199
Puffing Cannons to Pacemakers
Roseau
Polaris Snowmobile Tours / 202
Iron Dogs on Ice
Rothsay
World’s Largest Prairie Chicken/ 204
Nine-Thousand-Pound Fertility Charm
Royalton
Treasure City / 206
Minnesota’s Wall Drug
St. Louis Park
Pavek’s Museum of Wonderful Wireless / 208
“What Hath God Wrought?”
St. Paul
El Dorado Conquistador Collection/ 211
Black Velvet to Hardened Foam
Forepaugh and Griggs Mansions / 214
Haunted Houses
Gangster Tours / 218
Ma Barker, Baby Face Nelson,
and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis
The God of Peace/ 221
Onyx John
Iggy the Lizard/ 224
The Science Museum’s Mascot
Jackson Street Railroad Roundhouse/ 228
Hub of “The Largest Railway in the World”
St. Paul/Minneapolis
Schmidt and Grain Belt Breweries / 231
A Tale of Two Beers
Sauk Centre
Sinclair Lewis’s Hometown/ 237
Main Street, U.S.A.
Sauk Rapids
Molehill Rock Garden/ 239
Reincarnation Paradise
Soudan
Soudan Mine/ 243
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Sparta,Wisconsin
F.A.S.T. / 246
Where the Statues Come From
Stillwater
Vittorio’s Bootlegger Caves / 250
Spelunking in Style
Two Harbors
3M/Dwan Sandpaper Museum/ 255
Keeping the World Smooth
Vining
Small Town Sculpture Park/ 259
Home of the Swollen Big Toe
Virginia
World’s Largest Floating Loon/ 263
Decoy on Silver Lake
Wabasha
Anderson House Hotel / 266
Working Sleeper Cats
Walnut Grove
Laura Ingalls Wilder Tour / 269
Little Museum on the Prairie
Winona
Julius C.Wilkie Steamboat / 272
Steam Breaks Speed Records
Wykoff
Ed’s Museum/ 276
Packrat’s Paradise
Minnesota Events
Aitkin
Fish House Parade/ 283
Austin
Spam Town,U.S.A.,Festival / 284
Blackduck
Duck Days / 287
Crosslake
Drive-In Church/ 289
Cuyuna
Woodtick Races / 291
Deer River
Wild Rice Festival / 293
Falcon Heights
Minnesota State Fair / 294
La Crescent
King Apple Grand Parade/ 297
Luverne
Buffalo Days / 299
Minneapolis
Aquatennial Milk Carton Boat Races / 300
Art Car Parade/ 303
Northfield
Defeat of Jesse James Days / 304
Pequot Lakes
Beanhole Days / 306
Red Wing
Prairie Island Powwow/ 307
St. Paul
Winter Carnival / 308
Walker
International Eelpout Festival / 311
Waterville
Bullhead Days / 312
Whalen
Stand Still Parade/ 313
Worthington
Great Gobbler Gallop/ 315

Bibliography
Permissions for Photographs
Index