Big Ole needs support – structurally and financially.

The famous Alexandria icon on North Broadway is in dire need of repair. The Runestone Museum, which owns the 50-year-old Fiberglas statue, notes that a family of birds is nesting in Big Ole’s shoulder; his cape is made of two pieces that are splitting apart and the wind could separate them completely; the Fiberglas is peeling off and turning to dust; and the paint is peeling in many places.

Museum Director Jim Bergquist acknowledged that Big Ole’s most recent paint colors are not the best, giving him a solid cream color face and beard. A new paint job, using long-lasting aviation paint, will provide some contrast and improve his appearance.

More importantly, structural repairs will strengthen the statue inside and out, providing better protection against the elements.

The estimated cost of the repairs is significant – $24,500. That’s a big challenge for a small museum, but it can do it with enough donations, large and small, from the community.

Sure, Big Ole can come across as corny and kitschy, a small-town oddity, but like it or not, the statue has helped put Alexandria on the map. It would be interesting to set up a clicker-counter to find out how many thousands of people stop at the statue to have their photo taken, day in, day out, not just during the busy summer months, but year round. Visitors remember him and tell others about him.

On the popular website, TripAdvisor, the statue received 4.5 stars out of 5 from visitors to the area. It ranked as one of the top “things to do” in Alexandria.

Some of the comments:

“Giant lakeshore Viking statue. How fun is this? There’s even a ‘viewing platform’ where you can prop your camera and set the self-timer. One of those fun, American roadside attractions.”

“He is big and tacky but worth the five-minute stop. Plenty of parking nearby and people to take your photo for you.”

“This is a fun sight-seeing and photo opportunity! It is within walking distance of the Runestone Museum and near a network of trails.”

“It ranks up there with the Corn Palace and that big Jolly Green Giant down in Blue Earth and that big neon cowboy in Las Vegas but it is just hokey enough to be cool.”

The Runestone Museum has set up an easy, fun way to donate to Big Ole’s repair through its website, www.runestonemuseum.org. People can choose to be an “elf” donator by contributing $10, all the way up to being a “Viking Chieftan” by giving $500. A sword on the website will track the progress of the donations.

Please consider chipping in to help Big Ole. Even a small donation can help this big-sized attraction keep drawing visitors to our area.