Regent knows Art is Key in Placemaking

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Resting in the southwestern quarter of North Dakota is Regent, a town of a mere 170 that could easily be overshadowed in the mix of nearly 200 larger communities in the state. However, the use of art in placemaking differentiates Regent from all the other small towns in the state and draws special attention.

Regent, ND
Regent, ND, by Andrew Filer; Wikimedia, cc-by-sa-2.0

Not much is readily available about the history of this little farming town. The town was founded in 1910 and named Regent in an attempt to become the county seat for Hettinger County. If you follow the railroad scars through the area, it can be determined that it once sat on a spur of the Milwaukee Road railroad. But the rails through the community are obviously long gone, likely abandoned prior to when they abandoned their Pacific Extention in the early 1980s.

The Enchanted Highway

It’s not the community’s history that residents rest their notoriety on. It is the art that can be found along The Enchanted Highway. The Enchanted Highway is a strip of roadway from Regent North to Interstate 94 that contains the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture collection. Though not a true highway, this road features seven sculptures (an eighth is under construction) along its 32-mile stretch.

The Enchanted Highway was the brainchild of Gary Greff, a local artist with a desire to bring more attention to his hometown of Regent. He started the construction of the sculptures in 1989, drawing inspiration from the local wildlife, as well as historical figures.

These aren’t small sculptures either. In Pheasants on the Prairie, a 40-foot tall rooster and a 35-foot tall hen look cautiously upon the prairie while the smaller hens trail behind. Geese in Flight stands 110 feet tall and 150 feet wide. In 2002, this piece of art was recognized as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The sculptures, in order of date of construction, are:

  • The Tin Family (1991)
  • Teddy Rides Again (1993)
  • Pheasants on the Prairie (1996)
  • Grasshoppers in the Field (1999)
  • Geese in Flight (2001)
  • Deer Crossing (2002)
  • Fisherman’s Dream (2006)
  • Spider Webs (In progress)

Mr. Greff had been utilizing his own funds to maintain these unique pieces of art. However, the State of North Dakota eventually realized the importance of this tourist draw and has provided funding to assist with the maintenance.

Geese in Flight
Geese in Flight, by Skvader; Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Regent as a Destination

Gary Greff’s determination to revive his hometown continued at the southern terminus of the Enchanted Highway in Regent. Sitting at the southwestern edge of town is the Enchanted Castle, a unique hotel, tavern, and steakhouse. Constructed in the style of a castle, it would’ve certainly drawn the interest of Ida Grove’s Byron Godberson. As evidenced by the hotel’s website, the Enchanted Castle is clearly a unique destination in itself. The facility plays host to many events for the community that you don’t typically see in a town of under 200.

Along Railway Street sits the Enchanted Highway Campground. Just two blocks from downtown, the campground provides a simple resting place for RV and tents alike. Just a short walk down the road is the Enchanted Highway Giftshop, the Cannonball Saloon, and the Regent Co-Op Store for groceries. Next to the Co-Op is the Hettinger County Museum. The various buildings that constitute the museum provide a wealth of information about the frontier history of the area.

A Welcoming Presence

On top of it all, the community has quite a welcoming presence. By reading through the reviews on Google Maps, it is clear that visitors to Regent are met with a helpful smile.

Google Maps Review - Enchanted Campground
Google Maps Review, Enchanted Campground; Google Maps
Google Maps Review - Hettinger Co Museum
Google Maps Review – Hettinger Co Museum

An Example for Other Communities

Little Regent, North Dakota, is an example for other communities, regardless of their size. Community leaders didn’t reject Gary Greff’s aspirations. They let a transformation happen that created a highway of art pieces from the interstate to their doorstep. What has been created is a sense of place that draws visitors to Regent on a regular basis.

If you find yourself traveling through the western half of North Dakota on Interstate 94, veer off the road (safely) and onto the Enchanted Highway and into a world of massive metal art.

Here are a few more photos of the great metal art along the Enchanted Highway:

Grasshoppers in the Field
Grasshoppers in the Field, by Skvader; Wikimedia, cc-by-sa-4.0
Pheasants on the Prairie
Pheasants on the Prairie, by Carol M. Highsmith; Wikimedia\Library of Congress

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