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End is near for Big Ole repairs

Work on Big Ole is expected to be completed by the end of August. (Photo by Lowell Anderson, Echo Press)

Big Ole, in all his 28-foot-tall fiberglass stature, is getting closer and closer to being completely repaired.

Some unforeseen circumstances have delayed progress, according to Jim Bergquist, executive director of the Runestone Museum.

The two biggest include unknown damage to the statue and weather. In addition, the contractor doing the work "banged up his knee on some scaffolding" and was out for a few days, said Bergquist.

He noted that when the job began, it started out as just a new paint job, but after further inspection of Big Ole, especially his shield, it turned into more of a complete restoration project.

"It wasn't worth just a paint job," said Bergquist.

He said that Big Ole has had some patchwork done, but he's also had some new fiberglass added as well. Big Ole's shield is being rebuilt because of how damaged it was, he added.

The cost of the project has exceeded $30,000, which is about the amount of money that was raised. Bergquist couldn't thank the community enough for the donations, as well as the Alexandria Area Community Foundation, which provided a matching grant of $10,000.

As for Big Ole's new color palette, Bergquist explained that the museum specified the colors based off a question asked on Facebook about how Big Ole should look. Bergquist said the majority of people who responded indicated that they wanted Big Ole to look more rugged, more "Viking" looking. He said the new, updated look of Big Ole is actually based off a photo from 1969 when Big Ole stood in the middle of the street right in front of the Runestone Museum.

This is the first time in a quite awhile, noted Bergquist, that Big Ole has undergone such major repairs. He said in more recent years, Big Ole had some minor repainting about six or seven years ago.

As to when the project will be completed and Big Ole can once again stand rugged and tall, Bergquist said he is hopeful the repairs and painting will be done by the end of August.

"It's really hard to say. We've been surprised before," said Bergquist. "But we are definitely hopeful."

Bergquist thanked the community for its patience and also noted that donations are still being accepted. There is a special tab on the museum's website, www.runestonemuseum.org, for donations. Click on "support us" and then "help repair big ole!" Donations can also be dropped off or mailed to the museum, Runestone Museum, ℅ Big Ole repairs, 206 Broadway, Alexandria, MN 56308.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242
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