CBS This Morning visits the Enchanted Highway

Local News

In the CBS This Morning Summer Series, “American Wonders,” they’re exploring places that make America wonderful, from majestic natural landscapes to spectacular creations.

Tuesday, July 31, they’re in North Dakota exploring a place that many of us here in the Peace Garden State drive by on a regular basis. The enchanted highway. Here’s more from CBS This Morning.

Along one stretch of road in North Dakota sits what you might call an outdoor folk art gallery. The incredible sculptures and works of art were created by just one man.

The movie “Field of Dreams” gave a small-town man the idea to turn a proverbial road to nowhere into a tourist attraction. Regent, North Dakota has lost around 40 percent of its population since 1990.

Gary Greff decided to give travelers something to see, to keep his town on the map.

On an unnamed highway in southwest North Dakota where lush green plains roll up to the sky, the unexpected appears over the horizon, soaring scrap metal sculptures nestled on the roadside. This is the enchanted highway.

“What do you think of it, Sheila?” says CBS reporter Jamie Wax.

“It, this is fabulous, the fabulous that his guy came up with this idea to save this part of his section in North Dakota. I think this is wonderful,” says tourist Sheila Sanders.

“This guy” is 70 year old Gary Greff.

“Hey so glad to meet you!” says Greff.

A self-taught scrap metal sculptor.

“I wanted each– each sculpture, each sight to be like you’re driving into a picture frame. And when you get into it you go, Woah, that’s completely different than the other one. I don’t want any two sculptures to be same,” says Greff.

Seven works dot this 32-mile stretch of the Enchanted Highway, according to Guinness, Geese in Flight is the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world. Greff draws inspiration from local wildlife and historical figures. Driving this road, you’ll see Pheasants on the Prairie, Fisherman’s Dream, and President Roosevelt on a Bucking Horse in “Teddy Rides Again.” Greff began work on his first, The Tin Family, in 1989.

JAMIE WAX: 1989 was the year Field of Dreams came out as a movie. GREFF: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
JAMIE WAX: was that at all any inspiration–
GARY GREFF: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
JAMIE WAX: –for this?
GARY GREFF: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
JAMIE WAX: “If you build it, they will come.”
GARY GREFF: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
JAMIE WAX: Really?
GARY GREFF: Field of Dreams. You’re right. I saw the movie and I go, “Okay. If they build– if they build it, well, you know, they will come.” Okay. Yeah. Oh, yeah. There was– no, more than once I said that.

Greff was hoping people would come to his hometown.

“So this is Regent…” says Greff.

A genuine blink and you’ll miss it kind of place. Greff wanted tourists to follow the path of the sculptures into Regent. About 6,000 cars do each year. He opened a gift shop. And turned the former High School into a 19-room midevil themed hotel.

But not everybody in town has bought into Greff’s vision.

“Well, the landowners aren’t bein’ real cooperative right now, ” says Greff.

To build, Greff needs about an acre of donated property. Any time he wants to build, he has to find someone willing to donate about an acre of property.

GARY GREFF: “There’s a couple of them that run me off their place,” JAMIE WAX: ‘Cause they see you comin’?
GARY GREFF: “Yeah. They– well, they won’t even– they don’t want a sculpture. “Oh, I don’t want a sculpture. Get the heck out–” one guy threatened– “I’ll shoot you if you don’t get off my place.” (LAUGH) I go, “Okay. I’m outta here.”

“The town’s mentality is they’ve been a farming community for 100 years. Well that’s great. But you’ve gone from a town of 400 to a town of 100. Now, that tells you somethin’s gotta change. Yeah. This is what I came up with to help ’em out. Now you guys gotta take it and run with it. But I haven’t seen any running yet, says Greff.”

So while Greff wants for the people of Regent to come around, he keeps on building, with designs for at least three more sculptures.

“I want these to be a legacy for North Dakota, a legacy for Regent, a legacy– I don’t care about me. I mean, I wanted– I wanted people to say, If he can do somethin’ like this, gol’ dangit, maybe I can be– maybe I can be something. You can do whatever you put your mind to it. Just do it,” says Greff.

The North Dakota legislature voted earlier this year to allocate funds to assist Greff in the maintenance of the sculptures along the Enchanted Highway. For nearly 30 years before that, Greff used his own money and donations to maintain the sculptures.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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