BAXTER — It was a final good-bye for Don McFarland Friday as statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox were hauled away from Paul Bunyan Bowl in Baxter to move to their new home in North Carolina.
Paul Bunyan Bowl, located at the Excelsior Road and Highway 371 corner, closed its doors in July and McFarland recently held an auction to sell off various items.
McFarland is the owner of the family business that once included the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center which was sold eight years ago and then moved east of Brainerd. The family business also owned the bowling alley and bar/restaurant. McFarland ran the amusement park for 25 years. It was originally opened in 1950 by his wife, Patti’s family. Today the amusement park is located at This Old Farm, east of Brainerd on Highway 18.
“It’s discouraging,” McFarland said of the businesses closing. “This should have never happened. It’s disappointing that we’re losing Paul Bunyan from Brainerd. It’s very sad.”
McFarland had to make the decision to close the bowling alley because of the economy and said “the city’s taxes and fees on the commercial property killed us.”
McFarland wouldn’t say how much the two statues sold for, but said the minimum bid for Paul and Babe was $4,000 each. McFarland said when he purchased Paul in 2001 from a company in Missouri it cost him more than $6,000. He purchased Babe in 2004 from a local artist and it cost him around $5,500.
McFarland said the company in Missouri had about 100 Paul Bunyan statues, but he said Brainerd has the only talking statue.
A North Carolina company, Original Log Cabin Homes, purchased the two statues.
Randy Marsh, a hauler for Original Log Cabin Homes, said Tom Vesce, owner of the company has a Paul Bunyan statue, but he always wanted the ox to go with it. Marsh said Josh Porter, an artist who created several versions of Babe the Blue Ox in the Brainerd lakes area as well as the Paul Bunyan at the Welcome Center south of Brainerd on Highway 371, contacted the company about the auction of the statues.
Marsh said Vesce adopted Paul Bunyan as a common logo for a company.
Aspen Signs in Merrifield helped Marsh load the two statues. It took them three hours to get the statues loaded. Babe was loaded with ease, but there were problems getting Paul Bunyan off the concrete sidewalk.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.