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Geese in Flight at I-94 exit to the Enchanted Highway.
Geese in Flight at I-94 exit to the Enchanted Highway.

Enchanted Highway

Field review by the editors.

Regent, North Dakota

Thirty-two miles south of an exit ramp on Interstate 94 is the farm town of Regent, North Dakota. It was dying. Gary Greff, who'd returned to Regent as a schoolteacher after 20 years away, decided that he had to do something to save the town.

Gary Greff and Geese In Flight (2003).
Gary Greff and Geese In Flight (2003).

Regent had two things going for it: a population of farmers who knew how to weld, and a paved road leading from the Interstate. Gary figured that if he could convince the townspeople to build giant welded metal sculptures every few miles along the road, it would entice travelers off of the freeway and into Regent.

He was inspired, he told us, by the 1989 movie Field of Dreams and its misremembered catchphrase, "Build it, and they will come."

Gary spent a year getting the local farmers to teach him how to weld, then went to work. He christened the road Enchanted Highway. All of the planned sculptures would face north, toward the oncoming traffic from Interstate 94.

Tin Family.
Tin Family.

"I thought, okay, everybody in town's gonna help put this project together," Gary said. "It'll be done in two years."

Over 30 years later, Gary's still working on it.

"I keep welding, every day," he told us, speaking beneath his elaborate Fisherman's Dream sculpture, which was in need of some repair (It went up in 2002). Nearly all of the work that has been and is being done on the Enchanted Highway -- which goes far beyond simply the design and construction -- is performed by Gary. His activities (painting, building, etc.) have to be mapped out months in advance. "I never worry about not having enough to do," he said.

Gary Greff in his Excalibur Steakhouse, 2022.
Gary Greff in his Excalibur Steakhouse, 2022.

The first sculpture, the giant Tin Farm Family, was completed in 1991; the latest, Sir Albert and the Dragon, may be completed by the end of 2023, although Gary learned long ago not to trust his guesstimates of time. Each of the sculptures vary in style -- Gary felt that it would make them more interesting -- and all are huge. Geese in Flight, up by the Interstate exit, is supposedly the largest metal sculpture on earth.

Driving south from Geese in Flight, travelers encounter Deer Crossing -- two minimalist deer leaping over an immense fence -- and then Grasshoppers in the Field, one titanic bug and several smaller ones at its feet.

Fisherman's Dream depicts metal trout and bass leaping 70 feet through the suspended surface of a North Dakota lake; Pheasants on the Prairie features a bird family whose parents are over 50 feet long; Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again includes a four-horse stagecoach and a giant Rough Rider Teddy astride a rearing horse, Lone Ranger-style. Last comes the Tin Farm Family, and then the final two miles into town.

Pheasants.
Pheasants.

Every sculpture is a struggle as Gary scrapes together individual donations of cash and material. It wasn't until 2019 that North Dakota finally gave him some money for maintenance. "But I don't get discouraged easy," Gary said. "I tell myself, 'However it goes, it never goes quick.'"

Fisherman's Dream sculpture.
Fisherman's Dream sculpture.

Over the years a local Boy Scout troop and shop class have helped with some of the signs and picnic tables. Gary thought that local farmers would pitch in as well, and some of them did give him good terms on leasing the land where the sculptures stand. But on most days it's just Gary out on the Highway. He does all of the repairs, cuts the grass under the statues, and builds the parking areas and fences. And he's a cheery ambassador, chatting up everyone who stops while he works.

Gary's unflagging energy has spilled into Regent itself, where he remodeled his former high school into the medieval-inspired Enchanted Castle hotel, ideal for shutterbugs craving sunset/sunrise shots of Gary's art. The Enchanted Highway Gift Shop in town is open seven days a week in the summer, selling souvenirs and ice cream. On weekends, Gary is often behind the counter.

Now in his mid-seventies, Gary could stop work tomorrow and no one would say that he hadn't done everything superhumanly possible to bring people to Regent. "I'm just a crazy person," he said with a laugh. "But that's okay. If you didn't have crazy people, nothing would get done." Visitors praise his efforts. "There was a couple here the other day," said Gary, "who drove all the way from Florida. They said, 'We just had to see your sculptures.' Another man said to me, 'I'd have died a poorer man if I hadn't seen this.'"

While Gary admits that, "I must be doing something right," he's he's also quick to deflect praise, saying that everyone can do amazing things if they just try. Effort is never a problem for Gary. He's either at the Castle -- cleaning rooms or waiting tables at its Excalibur Steakhouse -- or in the Gift Shop, or out on the Enchanted Highway tending to his mammoth-scale creations.

World's Largest Grasshopper.
World's Largest Grasshopper.

"A lot of people would throw up their hands and say, 'The heck with it,'" Gary said. "But I kinda don't worry about it any more. I'm still as fired up as I was when I started. I'm gonna keep going."

Enchanted Highway

Address:
100 1/2 Ave. SW, Regent, ND
Directions:
I-94 exit 72 (Gladstone), then south along the road for 32 miles to Regent.
RA Rates:
The Best
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Geese in Flight: Enchanted HighwayGeese in Flight: Enchanted Highway, Regent, ND - < 1 mi.
Deer Crossing, Maze of Enchantment: Enchanted HighwayDeer Crossing, Maze of Enchantment: Enchanted Highway, Regent, ND - 3 mi.
Lefor Bank VaultLefor Bank Vault, Lefor, ND - 14 mi.
In the region:
Badlands Dinosaur Museum, Dickinson, ND - 10 mi.

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