Alexandria's famous norseman is getting a big ol' makeover

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Big Ole needs some help: his cape is splitting apart, paint and fiberglass is peeling off and there's a family of birds living in his shoulder.

Repairs to the 50-year-old Viking statue cannot wait another year, the West Central Tribune says. The Runestone Museum, which maintains the statue, has already hired a contractor to begin work on Big Ole.

Now, the museum is hoping a little fundraising campaign will help it pay the $24,500 bill. The museum is asking for donations at any level – from elf ($10) to Viking chieftain ($500) – and if someone donates more than $500, they can name themselves whatever they'd like, the museum notes.

The funds will help repair the small town oddity that's "put Alexandria on the map," the Echo Press reports. Ole will get a new paint job that will improve his appearance, as well as important structural repairs that will strengthen the statue for years to come.

An orange construction fence and scaffolding are expected to go up this week, and repairs are expected to last until mid-September, the West Central Tribune notes.

The good news is the statue will be mostly visible throughout the process, so visitors will still be able to take their picture with the larger-than-life norseman.

Big Ole's history

Big Ole was built in early 1965 by fiberglass sculptor Gordon Schumaker (he also built Smokey Bear in International Falls and the big Bluegill in Orr) as a symbol of Alexandria's Viking pride, Roadside America says.

The statue made its debut at the New York World's Fair that same year before being trucked to Alexandria, where it was erected on the north end of Broadway Street, before moving down the street to Big Ole Central Park in 2002, Highway Highlights says.

Over the years, the statue has been lit on fire, vandalized, and damaged in storms – but its always been repaired, Roadside America adds.

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