When the highway to the rural town of Regent, North Dakota was upgraded from gravel to pavement, Gary Greff wondered how he could encourage travelers on the nearby interstate to make a detour and stop at the community's local businesses. When Greff noticed people stopping their vehicle to take pictures next to a welded statue of a man holding a hay bale created by a local farmer, an idea was born.
"I'd never laid a bead of weld in my life before I started this project," Greff said. "But you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it. I'm living proof of that."
The first sculpture, The Tin Family, was erected in 1991, and others soon followed. Currently the Enchanted Highway boasts seven sculptures, including "Geese in Flight," which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest scrap metal sculpture.
Since the sculptures have been erected, a recent vehicle count shows traffic on the highway has dramatically increased. The Enchanted Highway Gift Shop sign-in book records visitors from all 50 states and many different countries. "Regent hasn't gotten any bigger, so we know the Enchanted Highway had its influence," said Greff, who now heads the Enchanted Highway Foundation. "I've had more than one person say they would not be in Regent if it wasn't for the Enchanted Highway."
With support from the North Dakota Department of Commerce and its Tourism Division, the Enchanted Highway Foundation is developing a hotel, bringing additional economic activity to the area. The Enchanted Castle is scheduled to open in this summer and is expected to draw tourists, hunters and workers from the region.
The Enchanted Highway is located off Interstate 94, exit 72 east of Dickinson, and extends for 32 miles south to Regent. There is no cost to view the sculptures, but visitors are encouraged to visit the Enchanted Highway Gift Shop and make a donation. For more information, visit realnd.com. To learn more about doing business better in North Dakota visit www.NDBusiness.com.