I had almost completed my eighty-mile trip up to the Brainerd Lakes area to visit some friends last night when I noticed some inconspicuous road signage flanking what looked like a dirt path on my right. I glanced over as I passed and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Paul Bunyan Land!
When my sister and I were kids, Paul Bunyan Land was on a par with Disneyland. There were rides (Tilt-a-Whirl!), carnival food, and chickens in glass booths who played the piano or shot basketballs. But the best part by far was when we first walked into the park through the main entrance. There in front of us was a colossal statue of Paul Bunyan that would personally greet us! “Hello there, Cindy and Kippy from White Bear Lake,” Paul would say as we nearly trembled with excitement at the magic of it all. When I grew up and had a kid of my own, I was thrilled to bring her to Paul Bunyan Land for the first time. As she entered the park and heard, “Hello there, Erin from Hopkins!” the look on her face was priceless! What a wonderful memory!
On Tuesday, August 12, 2003, I had driven up to Brainerd to visit my friend Russ. As I drove by Paul Bunyan Land, I noticed a sign that said that the next day would be the park’s last day. I found out later that the land that Paul Bunyan Land occupied was deemed too valuable to host an amusement park. So the next day on my way out of town, I stopped at Paul Bunyan Land and paid the $10.60 entry fee (the 2011 fees are slightly higher) so I could tour one of my favorite kidhood places one more time before it closed for good. I walked in, stood in front of the statue and smiled as Paul Bunyan said, “Hi to Kippy from White Bear Lake!” I couldn’t resist giving them my childhood nickname and old hometown. Then I walked around and went in just about every shop. I walked through the haunted house behind some crying children and sat down next to the cowboy positioned on a bench. For old times sake, I even went on the Tilt-A-Whirl!
The last time Erin and I visited Paul Bunyan Land, we capped off a perfect day with a Tilt-A-Whirl ride, then made the mistake of going on it a second time. Dumb! We both almost hurled! Yes, I felt nauseous during the ride and after it was over my head was sweaty and my shirt had big sweat marks on it. Oh, well, it was worth it. I then played tic-tac-toe and baseball with two chickens before paying a third chicken to give me a postcard. I even bought two old coupon books—one for my sister and one for me—gazed fondly at ol’ Paul one more time, then turned around and didn’t look back as I left.
I had heard shortly after that that someone had been interested in purchasing the Paul Bunyan statue but I don’t recall hearing anything more about it. According to its Wikipedia page, here’s how the park was resurrected:
The park, originally known as Paul Bunyan Center, was founded in 1950 in Baxter, Minnesota, by Sherm Levis. It was built around the statue of Paul that Levis and Roy Kuemicheal had purchased the previous year. The park grew over time to include over 40 rides. In 2003, the park announced that due to the high cost of running the park, it would be closing and that everything would be auctioned off. Fortunately, a local family owned business named This Old Farm was interested in keeping the entire park and bought the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox as well the rides. They moved the park onto their land six miles east of Brainerd on State Highway 18. The amusement park has 27 rides for children and is surrounded by 30 buildings.
Yesterday, my friends were waiting for me seven miles up ahead so I couldn’t stop for a leisurely visit. But the next day, on my way back, I joyously took a left turn into a cherished childhood memory. Yep, there was Paul in all his ginormous glory! When I explained to Sharleen, who was selling tickets, how much Paul Bunyan Land meant to me, she graciously offered to take a photo of Paul and me (see above). Sharleen, a lovely young mother of three kids, told me how fun it was to work there and to see the faces on the kids who were greeted by name by Paul. Sharleen’s bubbly personality made the visit that much more special. It makes me happy to know that not only does Paul Bunyan Land live on, but that a new generation of children can experience the magic that captivated me so wonderfully. Thanks for all the great memories, Paul and Babe!
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ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
If you feel more stressed than blessed . . . if you have more confusion than clarity about how to live your beliefs . . . if you long to live a richer, happier, more meaningful life . . . you will find a wealth of insight and guidance in Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World.
Through God’s Eyes is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the only book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.
Readers everywhere are discovering that when you challenge yourself to look through God’s eyes, the world around you changes, and so do you.
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In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
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Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.
Phil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.
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