By Carla Charter
REGENT, N.D. – An effort to save a small town has led to the Enchanted Highway, whose roadsides are decorated with giant scrap metal sculptures. Among these scrap metal behemoths is the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Gary Greff, the man behind the Enchanted Highway, first conceived of the idea of the giant sculptures in 1989 as a way of trying to keep his small town of Regent with its 100 residents alive. “I saw that a local farmer had built a sculpture of a farmer holding a broom out of scrap metal. The state had recently paved the road to Regent and it dawned on me that people may not drive out to see a regular sculpture but they might drive out to see the world’s largest sculptures.”
“All the farmers and ranchers out here weld and they taught me to weld. The more I weld the more I know how to weld. I never laid a bead of weld until I started this project.” When I talk to kids I tell them I hadn’t laid a bead of weld until this project. If I can build a large sculpture then you can do anything you put your mind to if you persevere and go for it.”
Much of the scrap metal used in the sculptures, including old oil well tanks, are purchased from junkyards. “It takes an average of 6 years to create a sculpture and costs around $60,000 to $80,000 per sculpture,” Greff said. He also runs a small gift shop in Regent which helps fund the sculptures.
Since the projects inception seven sculptures have been complete including a 43 foot tall man a 40 foot tall woman and a 20 foot tall little boy; a 52 foot tall sculpture, an ode to Teddy Roosevelt, entitled Teddy Rides Again; a Pheasants on the Prairie sculpture with a 70 foot long Pheasant, 60 foot long Hen and 23 foot tall chicks; The Fisherman’s Dream sculpture with a 70 foot long Rainbow Trout and smaller 30 feet long fish; Grasshoppers in the Field sculpture, with a 60 foot long Grasshopper with smaller grasshoppers surrounding it and Deer Crossing sculpture with a 70 foot tall Buck and a 50 foot tall Doe.
The Geese in Flight sculpture, also one of the seven completed, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is 110 feet tall, 150 feet wide and 78 tons. Greff said the idea to place his Geese in Flight sculpture in the Guinness Book of World Records started when a Boy Scout troop he was leading held a meeting at his house. “The Geese in Flight sculpture was laying on the ground. The Scouts said they had checked the Guinness Book of World Records and that the largest scrap metal sculpture was 78 feet tall and was in Brazil. They thought mine was taller so we measured it and it was 100 feet tall. It was weighed with a crane and it was 78 ton., so we filled out the paperwork and the crane operators signed the picture verifying its weight and we sent it in to the Guinness Book of World Records. They accepted it as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture.”
Greff’s current work in progress is a knight and dragon. When completed the knight will be 43 feet tall and the dragon will be 45 feet tall and 100 feet long. “The dragon will have some form of torch system so it will look like it is spitting fire at regular intervals and a speaker system will be set up allowing the dragon to roar,” Greff said.
The sculptures have brought more people to town according to the highway counter statistics, Greff said. “It used to be that 50 to 60 vehicles travelled the road and now the counter registers 200 some vehicles travelling the road.”
Along with the sculptures the town has also built an Enchanted Castle out of an old school which had previously been closed. “We are trying to make Regent a destination. The newly renovated castle has 19 rooms along with a tavern and a steak house. The venue is viable and will help support the Enchanted Highway.” More information about the Enchanted Highway can be found at www.enchantedcastlend.com