By Brent E. Frazier, mayor
City of Pelican Rapids 

By our fine feathered friends, we shall be known!

Almost every city has an identity feature, as when a person hears the name of the city, a certain landmark comes to mind.

Landmarks can be a building, a bridge, a riverwalk, a monument, a sculpture, an animal, or a bird. For the purpose of this column, let’s just reference a few of the bird sculptures.

Blackduck, MN has a duck, Frazee, MN has a turkey, Belgrade, MN has a crow, Rothsay, MN has a prairie chicken, Huron, SD has a pheasant, Vancouver, BC has a sparrow, Topeka, KS has a wren, Atlanta, GA has a falcon and Pelican Rapids, MN has a pelican.

Without knowing if any of the above-mentioned birds have a name, we are assured that “our friendly pelican” is known as Pelican Pete.

Many news columns in The Press have had mention of our white feathered friend, and there, ultimately, there will be many more in the near future.

To the surprise of many people, Pelican Pete did not always have a name, although he has been referred to in the past as The World’s Largest Pelican, The Mother of All Pelicans, and The Pelican Rapids Pelican. 

But, let’s step back a few decades in time…

Through the fine leadership, vision and community labors of Mr. Truman Strand, who served as mayor of Pelican Rapids from 1960-63, Pelican Pete has thus become the world known insignia, logo and image of Pelican Rapids. 

Pelican Pete was designed and constructed at the Resset Blacksmith Shop, of Ted and Anton Resset, at 2nd Street N.W. in 1957. 

Pelican Pete’s “birthday” was town’s 75th birthday 

This classic postcard is believed to be the first widely circulated image of “The World’s Largest Pelican,” featuring a bunch of Pelican area folks serving as models for the image, in the late 1950s

This was in preparation for the Pelican Rapids Diamond Jubilee (75th birthday) during the days of June 22-24, 1958. 

The skeleton of Pelican Pete stands 15.5 feet tall and is composed of steel and the body of plastered cement, which was shaped by Mr. Alvin Anderson. 

The concrete base consisted of 120 bags of cement and was mixed and poured ‘by hand’ by other volunteers from the community. This cement base has been a destination of residents and visitors alike to have a photo op as they stand next to The World’s Largest Pelican.

Over the many decades, Pelican Pete has felt the brush of many Rapala and Daredevil lures, angle worms, and minnows that have bounced off of his beak by a misguided cast of a fisherperson that has stood on this base in hopes of catching a fish. Pelican Pete’s feet have been dry during a drought, wet during heavy rainfalls, and frostbitten with the effects of frazzle ice during a backed-up river flooding condition.

Just prior to 2007, as The World’s Largest Pelican was to celebrate his 50th birthday, the Pelican Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce decided that ‘our big bird’ should have a name. And why not? Let’s make him more personal to both residents and visitors to our city. If Mr. Bunyan can be called Paul, if the Blue Ox can be called Babe, why can’t we have a personal name for The World’s Largest Pelican? A contest was then conducted, and the winning name was “Pelican Pete” (which has a nice ring to one’s ears). 

Of course, as with anything that is made of construction materials, there comes a time for a make-over or restoration, and this time has definitely arrived for Pelican Pete. 

After 65 years, Pete needs a “facelift”

As Pelican Pete has stood without a ruffled feather for 65 years through rain, hail, sleet, and snow, he also has been adorned in holiday ribbons and bows, and most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he wore a huge mask over his beak. 

So, now comes the time to repair any arthritis, cataracts, bunions, meniscus, plantar fasciitis, and balding spots to our beloved Pelican Pete.

These minor and major repairs will be accomplished under the care and supervision of a professional who is experienced in using a scalpel, forceps, retractors, needle, and suture on a plastered cement sculpture. 

This facelift and make-over will give Pelican Pete a new lease on life as he will go from looking like a 65-year-old senior citizen to that of a 21-year-old lad.

Before these maintenance items can be accomplished, Pelican Pete will be moved off-site for the duration of the River Restoration Project, which is planned for the autumn, winter, and spring seasons of 2022-23.

It is yet to be determined if any or some of these outpatient surgeries will be at the off-site location or when he is returned to a new location on the south side of the proposed rapids.

City will bear cost of pelican’s “plastic surgery”

Word has it that Pelican Pete does not have his own medical insurance, whereas after a surgeon is chosen, the City of Pelican Rapids will be absorbing his medical bills. 

Please stay tuned for more news about our beloved Pelican Pete, as he will continue to stand tall as the icon of Pelican Rapids.