Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are separating.
For the first time in 45 years, statues of the two Minnesota icons will have different addresses as Bunyan moves to This Old Farm -- an agricultural tourism site about seven miles east of Brainerd.
Don McFarland, owner of the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center in Baxter, said Wednesday that the park's statue of Paul Bunyan and about 30 rides will be given to Rhythm of the Rails, a local nonprofit that will run the attractions at This Old Farm.
McFarland said he's giving most of the park away for free because This Old Farm was the only place that would guarantee his 100 employees could keep their jobs. A few of the attractions will go to a Nisswa water park he owns. He expects to lose about $1 million in the transaction.
"The main reason I'm doing it is all our employees will have a position next year if they want it," said McFarland, who has run the park for 22 years. "Unlike Potlatch, who just sent out 600 pink slips and said goodbye, I'm not going to do that. ... I want what we've built here to continue.
The statue of Babe the Blue Ox, however, will be staying put. McFarland plans to keep Babe, placing him at the Paul Bunyan Bowl, which will be renamed the Blue Ox Bowl.
The park opened in 1950 with the Paul Bunyan statue as its main fixture. Seven years later, Babe the Blue Ox adorned the parking lot.
But declining attendance in recent years coupled with expenses caused McFarland to look for potential buyers. In the last 20 years, the park's attendance dropped from 125,000 annually to 76,000.
McFarland received inquiries from people in South Dakota and New York City before settling on two finalists -- This Old Farm and the Brainerd International Raceway. He selected This Old Farm last week but made no official announcement.
This Old Farm will only pay for the moving costs of the statue and rides.
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