The farming town of Regent, N.D., struggled during the 1990s due to an economic downturn and declining population. But Gary Greff, a local schoolteacher turned artist, had a vision: to turn his hometown into a tourist destination.
In 1990, Greff created the first stop on the so-called Enchanted Highway—his very first scrap metal sculpture, “The Tin Family.”
Since then, the 32-mile stretch of two-lane highway from Regent north to Gladstone has welcomed six more original scrap metal sculptures and has received widespread media coverage and acclaim. Greff’s statue “Geese in Flight” was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture. While the sculptures are impressive feats of engineering and artistry, they also hold significant cultural weight. Several feature native wildlife, and one—“Teddy Rides Again”—even honors Teddy Roosevelt, the beloved North Dakota rancher and 26th U.S. president.
To this day, Greff maintains his own statues by mowing the lawn that they rest on and making annual repairs. He hasn’t stopped in his quest to rejuvenate Regent, either. He recently bought and renovated the old high school and turned the 23 classrooms into the Enchanted Castle Hotel, which features a fitness center, gymnasium, hot tubs and the Excalibur Steakhouse.
We caught up Senator Donald Schaible (R), whose District 31 includes the Enchanted Highway, to ask about this beloved travel destination.
Which collection of statues, of the seven, are your favorites?
I have two favorite statues. The first is “The Tin Family,” because it was the beginning of the seven statues and sparked local and national interest in the project. My other favorite is the statues of the pheasants, as they have a lot of cultural significance in my district in southwestern North Dakota.
What does it mean to your community to be known for a prized art attraction?
The community and I surely appreciate the attraction. It’s a work in progress and continues to grow. As we speak, Greff begins work on his eighth statue of a dragon and knight outside his Enchanted Castle Hotel. We’re proud to be a part of his installation, but it’s been such a staple in the community, we sometimes take it for granted.
Gary Greff’s sculpture “Sir Regent” depicts a colossal knight fighting this fire-breathing dragon.
What else is great about your district? What other attractions should people see?
Well, we are a big district, nearly 131 miles in length and 90 miles in width. That being said, we are small-town oriented. We look forward to county fairs, school events and other local traditions. We are especially known for our pheasant hunting. Every October to the beginning of January, we have a large influx of tourists who come to hunt our wild game in the self-proclaimed pheasant hunting capital of the country.
Representatives Karen Rohr Warren (R) and Jim Schmidt (R) also represent the 31st District.
“My District” gives NCSL members a chance to tell us about life in the places they represent, from the high-profile events to the fun facts only locals know.