Gary Greff, Enchanted Highway
Regent, North Dakota, 58650, us
The sculptures themselves are always viewable from the road; call 701-563-4858 for information about overnight stays in Greff’s Enchanted Castle. To get there, take I-94 exit 72 (Gladstone). Head south along Regency-Gladstone Rd for many miles.
About the Artist/Site
In an attempt to drive tourism to this remote corner of southwestern North Dakota, a series of seven monumental sculptures have been installed to date on a 32-mile stretch adjacent to Highway 21. They begin in Gladstone, Idaho, starting at Interstate Highway 94 (exit 72), and continue on to Regent. The works were designed and built by Gary Greff, a retired school teacher turned metal sculptor who grew up in Regent; he was inspired after seeing how passersby stopped to photograph a monumental figure built out of hay bales by a local farmer. Although he had had no experience in welding or creating art, Greff’s plan was to create ten monumental works, all of which are thematically related to the culture and history of North Dakota, interspersed with rest areas with picnic tables and playground equipment to enhance the visitor experience.
Greff builds maquettes for each sculpture, but is only able to weld during the wet winter months, as he is sensitive to the need to avoid the possibility of brush fires. He also is the primary person in charge of maintenance of the sculptures along the road, cutting the grass around the sculptures and retouching works as needed. He lives simply, in a trailer, although has a large metal building for use as a studio.
This sculptural tour is supported in large part through the largesse of local farmers and ranchers, most of whom have provided Greff a twenty-year lease on the grounds for $1. A local Boy Scout troop has helped with some of the signs and picnic tables, under Greff’s direction. Greff also is responsible for soliciting donations for materials and funding.
The sculptures all face north, facing the traffic coming off of the interstate. They include Geese in Flight (which in 2002 was noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture in the World, weighing over 78.8 tons and measuring 154 feet long and 110 feet tall), Deer Crossing, Grasshoppers (which includes several monumental blades of wheat, some over 40 feet tall, which symbolize the mid-1800s plague in North Dakota that devastated wheat crops and pioneer homesteads), Fisherman’s Dream (the most complicated to date, with six metal fish of different sizes leaping up through a metal “pond” some seventy feet in the air as they try to catch a monumental dragonfly, while a miniature fisherman in a boat tries to hook them), Pheasants on the Prairie (including a giant male and female with three chicks; each small bird weighs about 5000 pounds and is 20 feet long and 15 feet tall), Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again (a contour sculpture of the “father” of the National Park Service riding a bucking bronco, accompanied by a small wood stagecoach being pulled by a team of four wooden horses), and World’s Largest Tin Family (the first piece realized; the parents—Mom with a flower basket and Dad in overalls holding a pitchfork—are 44-45 feet tall respectively, and the boy, who holds a giant lollipop, is 23 feet all). All of the works were created from scrap metal, including oil tanks, oil well pipes, and wire mesh, and were erected beginning in 1999 (the Tin Family also includes telephone poles and barbed wire – this latter for Mom’s hair). Each site features a small kiosk with the name of the work, information about the entire route, and acknowledgments of the donors to the project.
In the center of Regent, ND, whirligigs, the “Enchanted Highway Visitor Center,” and the “Enchanted Castle Hotel” (a 19-room inn that repurposed the old public school to finally fulfill the need for visitors to the Enchanted Highway who wanted to stay overnight) continue the theme of the artwork on the highway. Greff would also ultimately like to open more expanded facilities to welcome visitors. “I just keep getting fired up every day,” he said. “This will all end when it ends, but by then, I’ll be pushing up daisies.”
The sculptures themselves are always viewable from the road; call 701-563-4858 for information about overnight stays in Greff’s Enchanted Castle.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Regent, North Dakota, 58650 us
Latitude/Longitude: 46.421671 / -102.555719
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