2009 – 10 Most Endangered – The Big Fish

The Big Fish, Bena

Map: 456 US Hwy 2 N.E., Bena, MN 56626

Minnesota is blessed with a number of colossal roadside attractions, from Paul Bunyan statues to giant loons, yet it is our fascination with fish that often garners the biggest concrete, fiberglass, or wood specimens. In that category is the Big Fish, the superlative example of Minnesota’s biggest aquatic lifeform, the muskie. Located on U.S. Highway 2 outside of Bena, this popular example of roadside Americana was originally called the Big Muskie Drive-In. The Big Fish is just a short cast from Lakes Winnibigoshish, Cass, and Leech, in the heart of Minnesota’s muskie fishing region about 35 miles east of Bemidji.

The 65-foot long, 15-foot wide Big Fish was built as an ice cream and hamburger stand in 1958, composed of wood and roofing material by sculptor Wayne Kumpla. The former food stand is now a storage shed located next to the Big Fish Supper Club, a seasonal restaurant. Tourists frequently stop along Highway 2 for photo opportunities with the Big Fish, including posing inside the fish’s walk-in mouth. The Big Fish has been featured on a number of blogs and at least three books on roadside attractions. Charles Kuralt called it his favorite building in the U.S. The structure also appeared in the opening credits of National Lampoon’s Vacation, starring Chevy Chase.

Unfortunately the Big Fish has fallen into disrepair and the wood frame is in danger of rotting. Guidance and help are needed so this vernacular folk art structure can be preserved for future lovers of roadside America.

Learn more about the Big Fish at:

Society for Commercial Archeology – http://www.sca-roadside.org/

Read about the Big Fish in the New York Times –http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/22/automobiles/on-the-byway-roadside-giants-icons-that-are-large-literal-and-loved.html?sec=travel&spon=&pagewanted=all

Or in the book Minnesota Marvels –http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/D/dregni_marvels.html
Visit Big Stuff blog http://thebigstuffproject.blogspot.com/

Roadside America http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/710

Join the cause “Fans of the Big Fish” on Facebook