Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Pelican Rapids: The symbolic art of the pelican October 17, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:33 PM
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Pete the Pelican in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota


OVER-SIZED SCULPTURES, roadside kitsch—whatever term you tag to mammoth outdoor art, I’m a fan. Many Minnesota communities, from Fergus Falls’ otter to Rothsay’s prairie chicken to Garrison’s walleye, identify themselves with public art symbols.


The scenic early October drive to Pelican Rapids from Detroit Lakes.


Most recently I discovered Pete the Pelican in Pelican Rapids, a northwestern Minnesota town some 50 miles from Fargo, North Dakota. We made a day trip there from Detroit Lakes, where we stayed for a few days recently. Our eventual destination: Maplewood State Park to the east of Pelican Rapids.


The horses seem to be galloping off this painting by Marcella Rose, such is the movement she brushed into the scene.


Marcella Rose’s pelican art.


The varied art of Marcella Rose.


We parked downtown, walked around, popped into artist Marcella Rose’s studio and shop,


Pete the Pelican


Signage about Pete the Pelican.


and then looked for Pete the Pelican. The iconic symbol stands 15 ½ feet high and was built from steel, concrete and plaster in 1957. He sits on a concrete base at Mill Pond Dam along the Pelican River.


Walking toward the suspension bridge. More info coming in a second post.


A nearby park features a unique suspension bridge which also drew our interest.





Other, smaller, “friends of Pete” pelican sculptures are scattered throughout the downtown adding to the town’s artsy appeal.


Pete the Pelican from another perspective.


Pete the Pelican has become a tourist attraction in Pelican Rapids, providing lots of photo ops. This is a town I’ll long remember precisely because of the public pelican art.

TELL ME: Are you drawn to over-sized sculptures? Give me examples of such public art you’ve seen and like. What value do they add to a place?

Please check back for another post from Pelican Rapids.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “From Pelican Rapids: The symbolic art of the pelican”

  1. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Didn’t know there were so many pelicans. Still love all the Peanuts characters around St. Paul.

  2. I have visited Pete the Pelican and now have my own Pete the Pelican (CravesDad gave me a wood craved pelican). Love the additional Pete the Pelicans. We have painted oranges on buildings and art decorated Dolphins throughout town. We also have murals on buildings and love seeing the creativity. I have seen Paul Bunyan, a Big Ball of Twine, Dinosaurs, Big Road Runner, etc. I enjoy seeing pops of art when out and about or traveling. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    Fun pelicans…I must not have ever been to Pelican Rapids…I think I would have remembered the big birds! Fun!

  4. Susan Ready Says:

    Interesting bits of info about an area I do not know much about and we can claim to fame Paul Bunyan in the up north country and his girlfriend Lucette in the town of Hackensack by the shores of Birch Lake.

  5. JanBeek Says:

    Yes, I am drawn to oversized art. I think the pelicans are wonderful. In our little town of Ennis, MT, we have oversized fish (Ennis is known as the World’s flyfishing capital… the Madison River runs through our town). Each fish was provided by the Chamber of Commerce and was voluntarily painted by a different local artist or group and then they were auctioned off as a Chamber fundraiser. Nearby in West Yellowstone there are oversized bison. Theirs was a similar Chamber fundraising activity. Thank you, Audrey, for your interesting post on Pelican Rapids. I love the pelicans. They live part of the year on our Madison River.

    • Your town of Ennis sounds like a lovely spot in Montana. Many communities “do” those art fundraisers which not only bring in funds but also promote the arts and identify a community. Thank you for sharing about the fish and the bison.

  6. The walleye in Babbitt, MN.

  7. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    They are a really cute! My hometown has a gigantic buffalo

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