By John Lauritsen

VINING, Minn. (WCCO) — It takes about 30 seconds to drive through the town of Vining. But during that 30 seconds, there’s a lot to see.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us why travelers have made this small town a destination.

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Tucked away in the middle of Otter Tail County, the population sign says Vining has less than 100 people.

“Everybody knows one another,” said Ken Nyberg.

But if you were to factor in all of the town’s “other residents,” then the population would more than double.

The big foot sculpture on the west side of town is the brainchild of Nyberg. It’s 12-feet high and weighs 1,200 pounds. And it’s just one of many footprints he’s left around Vining.

“I’ve always liked making something different,” said Nyberg.

Forty years ago, Ken made a metal sculpture for a friend. It was a hit, so he made another, and then another. Nyberg soon realized he had an eye for this. And it wasn’t long before the town created a park out of his art.

When we first visited him a decade ago, Nyberg had about 30 sculptures. Today, he has over 100.

“[The ideas] just appear. Wake up at night or anytime,” Nyberg said. “And a lot of things have gone by the wayside because it takes quite a while to build one of these so I’m thinking about different things and a lot of it just gets forgotten again.”

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There’s no rhyme or reason to his creations. He’s made pliers with a cockroach on top. A doorknob with no door. And enough animals to take visitors on a safari. Each of them is made out of “some” kind of metal. He used lawnmower blades to build an elephant.

“There’s several people around this part of the country that work on mowers, so they save them for me,” said Nyberg.

His work draws a crowd, no matter what time of year it is.

“It’s really fascinating for a town of this size, and my grandchildren love it. You know, every time they come to visit they run around and take pictures by the sculptures,” said Joan Uhren of Vining.

It’s a slice of life in western Minnesota. And for Nyberg there’s never a deadline. Long retired, he just works whenever he feels like it.

“If I had to meet schedules I might as well go back to work,” said Nyberg.

What’s funny is he’s not even the most famous person in town. His daughter Karen was an astronaut for NASA. It all equates to one small step for the Nybergs, one giant leap for Vining.

“It just makes it fun,” said Nyberg. “I said that my retirement years have been the best years of my life.”

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People from all over the world have visited Nyberg Sculpture Park, including visitors from Africa and China. Nyberg also has sculptures in nearby Henning, Minnesota.

John Lauritsen