Pelican’s famous statue still inspires visiting families –after six decades as most famous citizen

Over six decades, Pelican Pete has probably had more cameras pointed in his direction than President Donald Trump in his first six months in office.

Exaggeration? Maybe. We prefer to describe it as an “alternative fact.”

We celebrate 2017 as the 60th birthday of the “World’s Largest Pelican” in this edition of the Pelican Rapids Press.

In the process of preparing the special souvenir edition, it became evident how important this icon is to the community of Pelican Rapids.

Those of us who live and work in and around the community tend to take “Pelican Pete” for granted. But try to place yourself in the shoes of a
visiting mom and dad, with awestruck youngsters. For a five-year-old, seeing the immense statue for the first time, it is truly a memorable experience–and one they will carry with them into adulthood.

In recent weeks, I’ve paused to observe the activity around Pete’s perch at the Pelican damsite. During the Lake Country Cruisers car show; the Pelican Fest summer celebration; and the Art in the Park; I marvelled at the stream of families stopping to photograph Pete.

He is the most photographed roadside statue in Otter Tail County, I contend. Granted, the giant Vergas loon is a contender–but there is little doubt in my mind that Pete’s centralized downtown location; surrounded by beautiful city parks and a delightful walkway; is the focus of more camera lenses than the loon, the Indian Chief in Battle Lake; or the giant otters in Fergus Falls and the city of Ottertail.

We posted a few items on the website and also on the Press Facebook site, and had thousands of views–plus a number of personal comments and happy birthday greetings to Pelican Pete.

Among the comments was a “true confession from Mary Ellen Anderson Hunter: “My brother and co-conspirators wrote their initials on Pete’s chest while the cement was still wet (evidently in 1957, when the statue was created). They’re now covered by another layer of cement. What rascals!”

Pelican Pete is a source of pride for us all.

And those of us who see him everyday need to remember how aweinspiring old Pete is–to a wide-eyed youngster.

Happy Birthday, Pete!