The Enchanted Highway

Ballena Blanca parked by Geese in Flight at the start of the Enchanted Highway.

September 24, 2020.

What does one do when they return to their hometown to find it in economic decline? Fire up the tractor and start flattening oil well tanks.

OK, this might not be what everyone would do but it was what Gary Greff did. Gary believes that “our country was not built on big towns but on small towns and every individual person that worked there.” So when Gary quit his job as a high school principal and returned to, Regent, his small town in North Dakota, and discovered that it was slowly becoming one more eroding brick in the foundation of our country he decided to do something.

Inspired by seeing people pull off the road to snap a pic of a hay bale strongman built by a local farmer, Gary had a “Build it, and they will come,” moment right out of the movie Field of Dreams. With no formal art training or experience in welding, he decided to build giant sculptures to lure tourists off the interstate and down a 32 mile Enchanted Highway to Regent.

And it worked. At least for us, because that is just what we did when we left Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

* All pics are click to enlarge. And once they are enlarged you can click on either side of the pic to view them in a slide show.

Geese in Flight is the first sculpture you come to when you take exit 72 from I-94. You can see if from the highway where it sits north of the interstate. Geese in Flight is listed in the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest scrap metal sculpture on the planet.
It took Greff 6 years to complete. He flattened over five miles of oil well tanks and pipe with his tractor. The sculpture is 110 feet tall, 150 feet wide, and weighs 78.8 tons.
From I-94 you head south on 100 1/2 Ave SW to the next stop, Deer Crossing. The leaping buck is 70 feet tall, the doe is 50 feet.
Gary constructed this sculpture in a pasture near Regent. When it came time to transport it to its home along the Enchanted Highway he ran into a bit of a problem. Although he had measured the width of Main Street he had forgotten about the light poles. With the sculpture loaded up in his truck, he was able to weave in and out of the poles until he came to two directly across the street from each other. He had to cut off an antler and a leg and reweld them when he got to Deer Crossing’s destination on the Enchanted Highway.
Greg traverses the maze next to Deer Crossing.
View from the maze.
Next up, Grasshoppers in the Field.
All the sculptures are North Dakota themed. Many a farmer have had to deal with grasshoppers in their wheat fields.
The state of North Dakota provided $75,000 in its 2019-2020 budget to assist Greff in maintaining the sculptures; prior to that year, he had used his own money and donations to pay for upkeep.
And, of course, there were birds too! House Sparrow on top of a metal grasshopper.
Another House Sparrow.
Fishermans Dream. All the fish in the sculpture can be found in the waters of North Dakota.
The rainbow trout being reeled in is 70 feet long. The fisherman sits in a boat once owned by Gary’s father.
The highway attracts approximately 6,000 tourist cars per year.
A group of colorful Rock Pigeons seemed to be living in the waves of this sculpture.
My favorite sculpture was Pheasants on the Prairie.
The adult pheasants are over 70 feet long.
I love how the light shines through these guys.
Teddy Rides Again. This sculpture is made from bent oil well pipe. The stagecoach was built by volunteer carpenters who wanted to contribute to the project.
World’s Largest Tin Family was Gary’s first sculpture in 1990. Mom stands 43 feet, dad, 45 feet, and the son 23 feet high. Telephone poles help to anchor the sculptures. Mom’s hair is made of barbed wire (there’s a permanent bad hair day). Gary hopes to add a daughter and pets someday.
In the town of Regent, we found Wirly-gigs next to the Enchanted Highway gift shop.
The Enchanted Highway Gift Shop is only open in high season and was closed when we visited. There was a sign on the door with a phone number to call to have the shop opened. We didn’t want to bother anyone just to browse but we did want to leave a donation. Another sign said we could leave a donation at any business in town. We stopped in the small grocery store across the street. They were happy to take our donation but they also told us that Gary was working on his new sculpture just a few blocks away.
We found Gary at the other end of Main street working on his latest sculpture, Sir Regent. He told us he had about another year’s worth of work on this one. We are looking forward to when we can return to see the completed Sir Regent’s wielding a giant sword.

Look for a link to this post and other interesting links to interesting stories around the world at Skywatch Friday, My Corner of the World, Travel Tuesday, and Sharon’s Souvenirs.

11 thoughts on “The Enchanted Highway

  1. What an interesting story and intriguing place. What blows me away is that he had no formal art or welding training, yet he created all these beautiful sculptures. Amazing!

    1. Thanks so much, Veronica! It is a weekend of chores for us – but the more things that get scratched off the list the better the weekend gets!

  2. What an interesting story to find with your travels. Extra special in that you met the artist on that day in town. Amazing what one can make from throwaways with a lot of determination. The grasshoppers and maze are my favorites.

  3. What a grand idea, Gary had. Such an amazing place and find, Duwan. It looks more impressive and diverse than the metal sculptures in Anza Borrego in Southern California! The grasshoppers are my favorite. And, how cool you got to actually meet the artist and witness him building another one. Fantastic experience.

    1. Really, such ambition and creativity. I think a project like this would be so overwhelming I wouldn’t know where to start!

  4. What a lovely blog! I, too, visited the Enchanted Highway this year and met Gary at his gift shop! What a downright incredible individual! I found your story here when I was googling for more information to go along with some Christmas gifts I purchased for family members. I can’t wait to read more of your adventures. Thank you for sharing.

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