Gary Greff's vision to turn his rural North Dakota home town of Regent into the metal art capital of the world got off to an ambitious start in the early 1990s. But in 2000, after eight years of labor, tourists still didn't make the side trip off the interstate highway to cruise the Enchanted Highway.
Still, Greff kept at it, and concluded that something big was needed to jump-start the project: a sculpture near the interstate turn-off, big enough to be seen for miles. He proposed the most ambitious project to date — "Geese in Flight," a composition as tall as three drive-in movie screens, perched on top of a hill above Interstate 94.
Greff needed money, and gained a key ally: Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan, who picked up $80,000 in a single breakfast fundraiser.
"Geese in Flight" now holds the Guinness record for the largest scrap-metal sculpture in the world. And it seems to have worked, at least a little. Tourists began to come to Regent, and in 2001, an Enchanted Highway gift shop opened on Main Street. Even though the income is small, it was the first real paid job resulting from Greff's project.
In 2004, Greff erected the seventh addition to the Enchanted Highway, "Fisherman's Dream" — a collection of huge metal fish hovering high above the ground. There's no telling if Greff will be able to erect all of the 11 sculptures he planned, but he vows to keep going.
"I think Gary symbolizes hope," says local teacher John Moore. "I think when a lot of people are writing off rural North Dakota, Gary isn't ready to do that. He just doesn't seem to believe he will fail."