We like to do things big in Bemidji, and apparently that includes overreacting to the antics of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox as unveiled in the new MNsure marketing campaign this week.
Paul and Babe have stood in our downtown on the shores of Lake Bemidji since 1937, and they’ve never given us much trouble — except when Babe cracked down the middle and had to have major surgery — and the time Paul wouldn’t let go of the Bemidji Curling Team’s Olympic bronze medal that was hung around his neck.
We treasure these local icons. They stand proudly in the heart of our city, and as the plaque beneath them reads, “The two figures remain permanent symbols of Bemidji.” Our town’s identity is bound up tightly with them.
What a surprise on Monday morning when our Paul and Babe were in the media all over the state! They weren’t behaving like the Paul and Babe we knew. Paul was even shown on billboards getting injured. It was shocking and a little confusing.
So we did what any friend would do. We told Paul and Babe to come home and quit acting so silly. After all, as representatives of Bemidji, they have a reputation to uphold. Our reputation. What would people think?
Of course, everyone loved Paul and Babe and all their antics. In fact, people across the state agreed that the pair make the perfect Minnesota representatives. That’s why MNsure chose them — no figures are more recognizable or beloved than our Paul and Babe, and we couldn’t agree more. It is an honor that the whole state loves them as much as Bemidji does.
Telling Minnesotans about MNsure is a big job. It takes a big voice. And Paul is just the guy to do it. And if he has to look a little silly in the process, so be it.
Each year, many thousands of people visit Bemidji for an up-close visit and photo with the handsome pair. And the two of them will always be standing by the lake, waiting patiently for you.
Rita Albrecht is mayor of the city of Bemidji.
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