PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. (WCCO) — The legend of Paul Bunyan is big in Minnesota.
There are several statues of the giant lumberjack and his blue ox, Babe, around the state, but only one town –Pequot Lakes — has Bunyan ‘s giant fishing bobber.
It sits atop an old water tower, not far from a giant set of footprints in a city park. The elementary school students in Kathie Harman’s class have let their imaginations run.
“Paul Bunyan was fishing, and he casted his line and got it stuck in Pequot Lakes,” said 9-year-old Braden Holmes. “So he just left the bobber there.”
From every direction as you approach the town, you see the tribute to Paul’s enduring popularity.
“Oh geez, they love him a lot,” said Wayne Chamberlain, who dresses up as Paul Bunyan for events throughout the Brainerd Lakes region. “When I go to a parade, I got Paul Bunyan maniacs.”
But there’s a problem with the big bobber. Lights that used to let everyone see it, even at night, have been off for the past couple of years.
“Almost every year and a half, we were replacing lights, and it was quite an expensive proposition,” said Lisa Paxton, the CEO of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber.
“It will just be new, improved, energy-efficient lighting that reflects 2011 instead of 1970,” Paxton said.
The landmark is no longer used as a water tower. In fact, the city was ready to tear it down when a new tower went up in recent years, but the chamber promised to make sure that it was well-maintained if the city would let it stay.
Crews have been under the gun to work quickly, because they’re expecting guests who often travel at night.
“Well, Paul Bunyan, Lucette, his whole family and friends, they need to find a way to get back here for Thanksgiving,” Paxton said. “So we’ve got to have it lit by that time.”
The new lights did go up this past week – even though the chamber is still short of its fundraising goal.
Two school children who came up with the best stories about the bobber will get to read them aloud at a lighting ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 10.