In 1964, Nort Star World’s Fair Corporation, a Minnesota non-profit corportation from Osseo, informed Minnesotans about an addition to the Minnesota Pavilion at the World’s Fair that was to be named “Minnesota, Birthplace of America.”

In April of 1965, construction of a Viking statue was completed by Gordon Displays of Minneapolis for that display. It was shipped to New York on a special trailer designed to accomodate its 28-foot height and 4-ton weight.

April 21, 1965 was the start of the New York World’s Fair. In two days, more than 250,000 fairgoers viewed the Viking statue known as Big Ole.

In December 1965, the Viking statue arrived at it’s new home in Alexandria, MN. It was placed at the nort end of Broadway, and Alexandria, MN was christened the “Birthplace of America.”

In 1967, Big Ole was dressed in a Santa suitfor the holiday season. A prankster shot a flaming arrow that landed on his suit; it went up in flames. The cost of repairing Big Ole was approximately $3,000.

In August 1980, the Viking was moved back from it’s island in the center of the 3rd Avenue and Broadway intersection to the 2nd Avenue area to make way for a new stop light and for safety reasons. The Department of Transportation paid for the move.

Big Ole has been cared for through the years. He was repainted in 1985, 1991 and 1996. In 1991, he acquired a more youthful look when the color his beard and hair was changed from gray to blonde.

1996 brought a stormy season that sent 70 mph straight-line winds down Broadway directly at Big Ole, causing a sway in his stature. Many feared if he was not repaired, another windstorm could mean his demise.

In the fall of 1996, Big Ole was taken back from his cement slab and laid on his back for renovation. Craftsmen reinforced his internal welding and put new fiberglass on his outside.

The winter of 1996-1997 was tough in the Midwest. Big Ole was one of its victims. While under renovation in an outer building at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, MN, the roof collapsed on him. It only hit 6 inches of his toe, but it fell with enough force to cause a domino effect along his right side, breaking the inner welding of his structure.

With the help of the community and donations from Ole fans coming in the mail, $27,000 was raised to complete the initial renovation and to do the additional repairs needed.

To express thanks, the Runestone Museum, along with the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce in Alexandria, MN had a celebration on Memorial Day weekend of 1997. It was called “Ole Oppe Fest.” (Oppe means “up” in Norwegian.)

Big Ole’s new paint job and sturdy body were revealed with fanfare that included fireworks and other entertainmnent, food and games. The celebration became an annual event, now known as Awake the Lakes.

With the continued growth of Alexandria, MN, more road construction was needed and once again, Big Ole was obscuring traffic. In 2002, he was moved back to a new park and trailhead for the Central Lakes Trail just off 1st Avenue.

Source: Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, Echo Press in Alexandria, MN