You've probably seen them around the Whitefish Chain- the larger-than-life, colorful and totally unique Babe the Blue Ox statues. But where did they come from? What's the story?
The project was called the "Oxtrot" and was modeled after the Peanuts on Parade project in the Twin Cities. Josh Porter, owner of Avalon Sculpture in Merrifield, headed up the project to create around 25 huge sculptures of Babe the Blue Ox, each unique and different, and place them around the area for all to see.
Babe, of course, is the legendary Paul Bunyan's faithful sidekick. Paul Bunyan lore and tall tales are a vibrant and fun part of the Whitefish Chain.
The Oxtrot was made possible by the Crossing Arts Alliance and a partnership with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, which serves both Brainerd and the Whitefish Chain area. The project was a big hit, and residents and visitors alike were soon touring the area to see every single Babe sculpture.
The project and the statues were created 8 years ago, but they continue to be a big hit for visitors and an artistic addition to the area.
Babe the Bluegill, for example, is located in Crosslake's Town Square. It's half Babe, half fish, and kids love to climb and play on the ox. Babe the Bluegill was originally made for the 2008 Governor's Fishing Opener, which was held in Breezy Point. Before he made his home in Town Square, Babe the Bluegill was hung as the day's catch for the fishing opener celebration and used as a fun photo op.
Wildwedge Golf in Jenkins also has a Babe, clad in plaid pants and golf attire, ready to hit the course. He's even ready to caddy a huge cart through the course.
Under Pequot Lakes' Bobber Tower is another Babe, fully representing the area with a summertime fishing scene.
Black Pine Beach Resort also has a Babe, painted a rather traditional blue and emblazoned with the resort's sunset logo. He greets visitors front and center as they enter the resort grounds, and is conveniently located near the playground as an added feature for kids and families.
There's an Elvis Babe in Brainerd, as well as a SCUBA Babe and many, many more.
Keep an eye out for a new Babe that's going to make his debut soon. He'll be located at the Cross Lake Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Center, where he'll be a part of the Linda Ulland Memorial Gardens.
Porter has plenty of experience in such sculptures, as he worked for the company that created the Peanuts on Parade project that overtook the Twin Cities. After moving up north, he took the project and ran with it.
Porter carved Babe out of big blocks of Styrofoam, then sent him off and had a mold made so multiple Babes could be made in the same form. He's added to many of the base models, such as Babe the Bluegill. Many of Porter's sculptures are carved from Styrofoam and then coated in in a spray-on form of fiberglass. They're then gel-coated and painted with airbrush paints.
The result is a whole family of oxen that are trotting all over the Whitefish Chain. How many have you spotted?