Beeting an old drum: Halstad turning cement drum into world’s largest sugar beet

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Posted: Friday, August 30, 2019 6:00 am

HALSTAD, Minn. – The world’s largest sugar beet statue has started taking shape along Highway 75 in the heart of Halstad.

The Halstad Business League has been collecting donations for a year to pay for the sculpture, which could reach a height of 21 feet, and a nearby electronic sign to announce events in the city.

Project supporters said Wednesday that the statue could be finished in the weeks ahead now that the cement drum that will become the core of the sugar beet has been installed.

“It turned out to be a little bit harder than we thought to get it into the ground,” said Emily Holte, president of the Halstad Business League.

“It’s so heavy that we had to get an excavator to lift it.”

The civic group purchased its cement drum from Lucken Truck Sales in Winger, Minn., which offered a 50 percent discount on the equipment as a donation.

Artist and sculptor Josh Porter of Avalon Studios in Merrified, Minn., plans to convert the red-and-white spiraled drum into the sugar beet statue.

Porter previously restored Paul Bunyan Land’s Babe the Blue Ox statue in Brainerd, Minn.

Once it’s finished, the sculpture will join the ranks of other signature roadside landmarks in Minnesota like Otto the Big Otter in Fergus Falls and Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji.

According to the travel site, Minnesota has 366 roadside attractions, although that number will increase by at least one this fall.

“We’ve had people say it’s strange, but when we explain why we’re doing this they think it’s great,” said Kristi Melting, owner of Vibrant Salon in Halstad.

“Some might think it’s a waste of money, but we’re trying to put Halstad on the map and celebrate beets around here. That’s why we chose the sugar beet.”

Melting points out that no public funds have been used for the statue, which will be surrounded by benches and tables in a new city park west of Cenex Convenience Store at 7 3rd St. E.

American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minn., donated $10,000 toward the project.

Following the closing of the city’s grocery store and the former Norman County West High School in Halstad, the community needs more reasons for people in stop, Holte said.

“Ultimately, we’re hoping it kick-starts our ‘coming to Halstad’ campaign,” she said. “We hope it’s an economic driver that brings people here.

“And maybe once they’re here they’ll visit the Cenex or go check out the hardware store.”

If nothing else, the statue will provide a good photo op for travelers while signs in the park will educate them about the history of the sugar beet, Melting said.

No firm date has been set for the completion of the project, which will vary depending on Porter’s availability to visit Halstad.

The Halstad Business League plans to hold a celebration to mark the statue’s completion in late October or early November following beet harvest.

The event will include a street dance as well as a sugar beet judging contest where farmers can show off their biggest, heaviest, most perfectly shaped and most oddly shaped beets.

Entrants won’t have to reside in the Halstad area.

Growers up and down the Red River Valley from Drayton to Hillsboro are welcome to drive over and celebrate the history of the sugar beet.

“We’d actually love that,” Holte said. “We’re hoping this brings people to town.”

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