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Hermann the German's footprint? ... well, um, OK, not really

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A New Ulm tourism official acknowledges a story he told news outlets about discovering a cast of Hermann the German's footprint in a basement crate was actually just a publicity stunt.

Terry Sveine now tells the Associated Press the New Ulm Convention and Visitor's Bureau actually hired an artist to make the four-foot-long mold, and then spread the story that it was found with a dusty note suggesting the ancient warrior's footprint had been shipped over from Germany.

New Ulm's most famous landmark is the 102-foot statue of Hermann, who led Germanic tribes to a battlefield victory over invading Romans in 9 A.D. The monument went up in 1897 to help the city celebrate its German heritage.

Sveine told the Mankato Free Press how the 425-pound cast of the footprint was found during a basement cleanup, saying "...in the way back corner in the back room was this box. It was all boarded up and dusty.” Sveine went on to describe a handwritten note found with the crate: "The note indicates it is Hermann's footprint and may have been made in Germany, but we won't know the whole story."

Sveine, of course, was unable to produce the note for the newspaper, which noted his account was rich in good-natured legend building but lacking in detail and verifiability.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? At its website the visitor's bureau is encouraging visitors to supply their own tales of where the giant footprint came from. The teller of the tallest tale even wins a prize: a trip to New Ulm.

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