Big Ole: America's Biggest Viking
A symbol of Alexandria's Viking pride -- the town believes it was visited by Norsemen in 1362 -- Big Ole was built in early 1965 as a second-year addition to the 1964-65 New York Word's Fair (Fiberglass sculptor Gordon Schumaker also built the Smokey Bear in International Falls and the big Bluegill in Orr). In December, after the Fair closed, Big Ole was trucked to Alexandria, where he was erected on a traffic island on the north end of Broadway. He was an impressive sight, visible for many blocks down the wide boulevard, and at 28 feet tall he towered over most of the buildings in town.
Big Ole's conquest of Alexandria, however, was far from easy. In 1967 the town dressed him for the holidays in a Santa suit -- into which someone shot a flaming arrow that sent Ole up in flames! His sword was snapped off by another vandal, and the Viking has often had an extra piece of anatomy added between his legs.
In 1996 he was knocked cockeyed by a freak windstorm, and when he was lying prone for repairs, his leg was crushed under the collapse of a snow-covered roof.
Through it all, however, Alexandria has rallied to their Viking lord, footing the bills for his patch-ups and repaintings and celebrating his return every time.
In 2002, Alexandria moved Big Ole north a couple of blocks to a small park on the south shore of Lake Agnes. His shield still boldly proclaims "Birthplace of America," but Big Ole was given a less stressful spot for his middle age.
In 2015 the town raised $26,000 for Big Ole's repair after an inspection uncovered numerous cracks in his body. Alexandria then decided to go all-out and gave their big he-man a total makeover, which was completed in August 2016. Big Ole should now be invincible into the mid-21st century.