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If you ever find yourself in the small town of Regent, North Dakota, you might notice some peculiar monuments on the side of the road. No, you’re not seeing things; you’re just on the "Enchanted Highway." The Enchanted Highway was built as a tourist attraction to bring people to the dwindling city. Now, it’s one of the most unique spectacles that you’ll ever see. Here’s everything you need to know about this famous stretch of road.
It Started With a Dream
Gary Greff wasn’t the best student in school. He didn’t land a powerful job and he didn’t really have many prospects for his future. What he did have, though, was a deep love for his town. Regent, like many other towns in the prairies of North Dakota, was losing residents. Nobody wanted to move there and most people who grew up there, soon left for greener pastures. Without tourism or other major industries, it looked like the city he loved was going to become a ghost town unless he did something about it.
Using Art to Change the World
In 1989, Greff decided to revitalize Regent and make it into a place that people would want to visit. Without ever taking an art course or learning how to weld, he began constructing massive steel sculptures on the side of the road.
The grand plan was to build 10 sculptures spaced out every couple of miles just off the interstate. Every sculpture would face north so that it could be seen by oncoming traffic. In the spaces between sculptures, he wanted to construct a small picnic area or a park where people could take a break from driving and enjoy the North Dakota scenery that he loved so much.
So far, seven sculptures have been completed. One of the sculptures was erected on the side of I-94 almost as a billboard that entices drivers to take the exit and travel the Enchanted Highway. Not only would the drivers be looking at some amazing artwork, they’d also be heading right toward Regent. If you take the exit onto the Enchanted Highway, you’ll get to see each of Gary Greff’s creations:
- Tin Family: A happy family made of metal and one of the most popular sculptures.
- Pheasants on the Prairie: A 60-foot tall rooster, 50-foot tall hen, and three 12-foot tall chicks.
- World’s Largest Grasshopper: A massive skeletal grasshopper.
- Deer Crossing: A giant deer leaping over a fence.
- Fisherman’s Dream: A large fish leaping 70 feet through the surface of a metal pond.
- Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again: An outline of Teddy Roosevelt riding a bucking horse.
- Geese in Flight: Officially the world’s largest metal sculpture. It stands 110 feet high and 154 feet wide and serves as the “billboard” on the side of I-94 to get people to drive down the Enchanted Highway.
A Changing Town
In the past few decades, the town of Regent has gone from 400 residents down to 100. Since Greff started building his sculptures, more than 6,000 cars drive through the town every year. He has since opened an Enchanted Highway gift shop and a 19-room hotel inspired by a medieval castle, which he calls the Enchanted Castle.
Every single one of the sculptures was funded personally by Greff or by donations. Even the land that they’re built on was donated by local farmers. Not everyone is interested in donating though. Some of the local residents don’t want their town to become a tourist attraction. Greff hopes that they’ll come around to his way of thinking someday. With several more sculptures in the works, he’s not accepting his town’s extinction lying down!