If you’re familiar with tall tales, then you might remember the story of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Paul Bunyan was a strikingly large and powerful lumberjack who traversed the wilderness with his equally strong giant blue ox. With just one swift movement of his axe, he would knock down dozens of trees at a time, becoming a folk hero to locals. Today, visitors can visit the Paul Bunyan Park in Bemidji to marvel at the 18-foot tall statue of the giant and his towering ox for a fantastic photo opportunity. The statues are so large and attention-grabbing that drivers on Highway 197 pull over to stare at the iconic Bemidji landmark and the mighty Mississippi River behind them. With the park’s latest features and updates, it’s even more of a reason to visit the area.
The park recently added a playground, hosting a grand opening with a ribbon cutting on September 17, 2016. The newly revealed playground is noted for its “timber” themes to match the lumberjack statue and heavily wooded surroundings. The playground is disability friendly thanks to Shane’s Inspiration, an organization consisting of engineers, physicians, occupational therapists, parents and children with a mission to make the place accessible for everyone.
Since the park is considered the most visited area in Bemidji due to the statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe The Blue Ox, officials recognize the importance of upkeeping their appearances. As a result, the pair recently received a new paint job with striking red and black paint for the lumberjack’s flannel shirts and a brilliant blue coat for Babe. The paint job was done by a local talent Dan Plante (owner of Dan’s Decorating) who has maintained the upkeep of the two since 1978.
When visiting the park, don’t be upset if you find visitors walking around the park with their heads buried in their smartphones. Thanks to the latest Pokemon Go craze, the Paul Bunyan statue garnered further attention for being a hotbed for Pokemon activities. The Pokestop by the folk heroes consists of “gyms” where game enthusiasts can train their Pokemons and retrieve Pokeballs. However, if the digital game full of imaginary creatures isn’t your thing, you’ll feel more at home at the Tourist Info Center, home to an impressive display of Paul Bunyan’s memorabilia. There you can spend the day browsing through the unique mix of artifacts such as the lumberjack’s boxers and toothbrush.