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Paul Bunyan and Babe statues ranked one of 'quirkiest' landmarks

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How would you describe Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues? USA Today readers would apparently say "quirky."

The signature Bemidji statues were named the fourth greatest Quirky Landmark in the United States in a poll conducted by the newspaper.

The top three finishers were (from third to first): a replica of Stonehenge made from cars in Alliance, Nebraska called Carhenge; the picnic basket-shaped Longaberger Home Office in Newark, Ohio; and Dallas's enormous cowboy, Big Tex.

Landmarks included in the poll were nominated by USA Today staff.

According to the Bunyan and Babe's website, Bunyan was built in the fall of 1937 by Cyril Dickinson of Dickinson Construction Company. The 18-foot-tall Paul was reportedly modeled after then-mayor Earl Bucklen.

Babe was constructed in the same year by James Payton, the site says, the tin horns measuring 14 feet across. Babe was initially used in parades to promote the city of Bemidji, but the statue incurred too much damage and was placed beside Bunyan permanently in 1939.

The website says thousands of visitors come to see and take photos with Bunyan and Babe every year. The pair is recognized by the National Parks Service as an official cultural resource and was even added to the National Register of Historic Place in 1988.

RoadsideAmerica.com, an online guide to offbeat tourist attractions, lists several other quirky Minnesotan landmarks to visit.

Big Ole, Alexandria's resident giant Viking, was built in 1965 for the New York World's Fair. Standing at 28 feet tall, Big Ole now resides in Alexandria as a symbol of the town's Viking pride.

Blue Earth has its own giant; the Jolly Green Giant, that is. After learning Interstate 90 would bypass Blue Earth, radio show host Paul Hedberg formed the idea of a life-size Jolly Green Giant to attract visitors. The 55 1/2-foot-tall statue, funded by the town's businesses and Hedberg, was completed in 1979.

In 1950, Francis A. Johnson of Darwin, Minnesota began rolling a ball of twine for four hours every day. After 29 years, the ball of twine was 12 feet wide and weighed almost nine tons. Johnson died and his efforts were commemorated by the town. It is now known as the "World's Largest Twine Ball Rolled by One Man."

St. Urho, the patron saint of Finland, was initially invented by Minnesotans in the 1950's as a joke. He is said to have chased giant grasshoppers out of pre-Ice Age Finland. The saint is honored in Menahga with a 12-foot-tall statue recreating the battle (pictured right, photo by Patrick Bolduan). The original statue is stored in a mausoleum, while a fiberglass replica stands along Highway 71.

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