The first indication that there’s something amazing off of I-94 west of Bismarck, North Dakota is the scrap metal sculpture “Geese in Flight.” You can’t miss it. Depicting Canadian geese flying over the seemingly endless expanse of prairie, this intricate sculpture stands at 110 feet tall and 154 feet wide. Its size landed it a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture.
This sculpture is only the beginning of the scrap metal wonders along the 32 mile stretch of quiet two lane road in the middle of farmland between I-94 and Regent, North Dakota. Gary Greff, “Geese in Flight’s” creator, started his scrap metal creations back in 1997 when he made the world’s largest tin family. Dad, mom and son, standing at 45 ft., 44 ft., and 23 ft. tall, serve as Regent’s welcoming committee of sorts. Their folksy how-de-do has worked like a charm.
See, Greff, noticing that Regent was on its way to ghost town status if something didn’t happen to change the tide of small town flight, came up with the idea to build enormous sculptures as a tourist attraction and call the endeavor “Enchanted Highway.”
Greff’s idea worked. I know that first hand. There I am one day in my office in Ohio listening to NPR when Greff is being interviewed. The story about the former teacher and principal who built the largest scrap metal sculptures in the world to save his town of 200 people in North Dakota caught my attention. How could it not?I pulled out our atlas, pointed to Regent, North Dakota and said to my husband, “We have to go here. We have to see the largest tin family in the world.” Besides, what’s a few more miles when one is driving from Ohio to Philipsburg, Montana? It seemed to me that the fact the hat of the tin dad is the size of a Volkswagon Beetle was reason enough to make the drive.
The sculptures along the Enchanted Highway that now include: “Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again,” “Pheasants on the Prairie,” “Grasshoppers in the Field,” “Deer Crossing,” and “Fisherman’s Dream” did not disappoint. Serving as a lesson in prairie and North Dakota history, they also amaze with their variety and whimsy. We were so enthralled with them that we’ve made the drive to Regent two more times.
This coming summer may be round four. Last summer, we were close but headed to Teddy Roosevelt National Park, a place we had yet to see on all our trips west. I sure did miss seeing the tin family, though. Happily, the “Geese in Flight” soared as magnificently as ever as we drove past them on I-94.
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association