ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Bemidji's iconic Babe the Blue Ox statue gets a raise

Construction has begun to raise Bemidji’s Babe the Blue Ox by 15 inches to help improve drainage around the statue and his pal Paul Bunyan, preserving them for future generations.

081322.N.BP.PAULANDBABE 2.jpg
Workers pour concrete near the base of Bemidji's Babe the Blue Ox statue during the first phase of a construction project on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
We are part of The Trust Project.

BEMIDJI — Photo opportunities with Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues will be limited in the coming weeks, as a construction project has begun to help preserve the statues by improving drainage in the plaza.

In recent years the spring freezes and thaws have resulted in damage to Babe’s feet. The statues, which were installed in 1937, have also sustained decades of wear, leading to cracks and Paul briefly losing an arm in 2021.

Both statues underwent restoration in response to these concerns, but further damage was expected unless the plaza's drainage was addressed.

Installed in 2015 to the tune of $1.6 million, the concrete plaza around the statues has the unfortunate consequence of draining water near Babe, something the current project is aiming to fix.

081322.N.BP.PAULANDBABE 4.jpg
The first phase of a construction project to raise Bemidji's Babe the Blue Ox statue 15 inches is underway on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
081322.N.BP.PAULANDBABE - 6.jpg
A drone shot shows the first phase of a construction project to raise Bemidji's Babe the Blue Ox statue 15 inches on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Courtesy / Brady Laudon of Visit Bemidji

Phase 1 of the project will involve raising the ox statue by 15 inches to reduce further water damage. Phase 2 of the project will reroute the plaza's drainage, install a catch basin and add a green space to the area.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Tourist Information Center and the other amenities at Paul Bunyan Park will remain open to the public as construction continues, and work is expected to be completed by the end of September.

The project to repair the plaza and preserve the 85-year-old statues was approved by the Bemidji City Council during its May 16 session, after initially being brought as a proposal to the council in August 2021.

081322.N.BP.PAULANDBABE 1.jpg
Concrete is poured around the base of Bemidji's Babe the Blue Ox statue during the first phase of a construction project on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Phase 1 of the project will be done by Jensen Conservation, while Phase 2 will be managed by Reierson Construction. The cost for the entire project is estimated at $271,187.

Progress of the construction can be watched in real-time via webcams operated by Visit Bemidji.

Paul and Babe have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988, and serve as a large draw for tourism in Bemidji. Further restoration of the statues has been discussed, but no formal decision has been made on when that project may occur.

081322.N.BP.PAULANDBABE 5.jpg
Construction is underway during the first phase of a construction project for Bemidji's Babe the Blue Ox statue on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
081322.N.BP.PAULANDBABE - 7.jpg
A drone shot shows the first phase of a construction project to raise Bemidji's Babe the Blue Ox statue 15 inches on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Courtesy / Brady Laudon of Visit Bemidji
081322.N.BP.PAULANDBABE 3.jpg
The first phase of a construction project is underway for Bemidji's Babe the Blue Ox statue on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: PAUL BUNYANBEMIDJITOURISM
Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
What to read next
A meeting hosted by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry on Wednesday in Bemidji introduced local employers to a dual training program as an avenue to address workforce shortages and needs.
A Red Lake man has been sentenced to 144 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for a 2020 murder that took place in the Red Lake Nation. According to court documents, on Sept. 12, 2020, Ralph Edward Cloud, Jr., 38, killed his cousin, Allen Smith, in Smith’s home.
What was printed on this day 10, 25, 50 and 100 years ago.
The city of Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department is now offering family game night kits.