The origin of the Enchanted Highway
North Dakota man creates metal sculptures to save small town
REGENT, N.D. — In 1989, Kevin Costner starred in a Hollywood blockbuster titled “Field of Dreams.” In that movie, an Iowa farmer hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying, "If you build it, he will come." In that same year, a rural North Dakota educator felt a similar urge to build and “they will come.”
Gary Greff, of Regent, concerned with the extinction of smaller rural towns across North Dakota, began a project that continues today and has attracted scores of visitors to his small town.
“I came home one day and was looking at my town and said, ‘you know, this town has gone from a town of 500 people to a town of a hundred,’” Greff said. “I thought if someone doesn’t do something, it’s only a matter of time before we’re gone.”
Many held hope that some major corporation would swoop in and save the town, but Greff knew better.
“Everybody hoped some big factory would come into town. The writing on the wall was there; a big factory isn’t going to come into a town of a hundred people. We don’t have a railroad, we don’t have the population, we don’t have the infrastructure,” he said. “Why would they come to Regent? I said, ‘rather than sit around waiting for someone from the outside to come in and save my town, I need to do something.’”
The unnamed 30-mile corridor of roadway leading to Regent from Interstate 94 was paved in 1989 and set off a lightbulb in Greff’s mind.
“I said, ‘now I have a paved road and should be able to bring people from the interstate to Regent somehow,’” he said. “I didn’t know what to do yet, but I picked up a Dickinson Press newspaper one day and read about a local farmer out of town that built a small sculpture of a man holding a bale of hay. People were driving out to see it, and after I read that article I said, ‘holy shoots, that’s it!’”
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