Much like west-central Minnesota’s lakes country sees a number of towns with Ken Nyberg-sculpted attractions, the Red River Valley of the North has a nice collection of concrete statues designed by Ernie Konikson, most built around the 1960’s. His medium was concrete, and subjects were animals (and occasionally people). Four of them are found along towns along Highway 2, one along Highway 59, and the other on Highway 10, all within 100 miles of each other in the flat, farming country of northwestern Minnesota.
Ernie Konikson, originally from Erskine, MN, was a creator of sculpture and signs. He would typically start with the cement base on which the statue would stand. It was constructed with a wood frame and filled in with concrete to support the statue. Next, the sculpture’s metal frame, or skeleton, was outlined. Once complete, the rest was filled in with concrete. The statues were then painted. Let’s take a look at his work.
In Konikson’s hometown of Erskine, there are two of his sculptures. The first, known as the “World’s Largest Northern Pike” is situated on the south end of the small downtown, on the shores of Lake Cameron.
Also found in Erskine near the busy intersection of US Highway 2 and US Highway 59, is the above-pictured “Indian Lady,” who carries a papoose in a cradleboard on her back. The Indian stands in front of an old motel next to a busy gas station just east of town.
Heading east of Erskine, another sculpture is found in McIntosh, MN. This one, titled “Lion,” was commissioned for the local Lion’s Club chapter in 1960 and was originally used to promote their cause as a parade float. It was later moved permanently to Roholt Park in McIntosh.
Just south of Erskine and McIntosh is the tiny “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” town of Winger, and in front of a service station there is a sculpture of a polar bear with what is presumably his lunch, a seal, under his paw.
The largest of Konikson’s work is found in Crookston, just west of Erskine about 20 minutes. In front of the Red River Valley Winter Shows building on the north end of town is “The Pembina Trail Monument,” a pioneer walking behind an ox pulling an oxcart. Built in 1965, it depicts Joe Rollete, a famous Minnesota fur-trader and politician who ran a trading post in the Crookston area back in the Civil War era.
But perhaps Konikson’s most notable sculpture is the dog which sits on the south side of Highway 10 outside of Glyndon, MN on the heavily-traveled thoroughfare which bridges Fargo-Moorhead and Minnesota lakes country. The dog, an Alaskan malumet which Konikson sculpted based off of a photo, was commissioned in 1972.
The Crume family, who owned a kennel which boarded and raised puppies outside of Glyndon, wanted something to help attract new business. So they commissioned Konikson to paint a new sign and sculpt something to really grab the attention. The following photos are from an article from 1993 that were sent to me from the Clay County Historical Society. The article explains how the statue, simply titled “Dog,” was built Konikson and how it dramatically increased Crume’s business.
Photos courtesy Clay County Historical Society
Crume Kennels has since moved from this location, but the dog remains. The kennel farm was later renamed “Boardwalk Kennels” and the base of the statue repainted, but that business is since defunct. After completing the Dog statue, Konikson died several years later. He had wanted to build a wagon train in the North Dakota Badlands, but the dream was never realized.
Roughly 50 years later, the statues still stand, and likely will for a long, long time. And we hope they do: the article from CCHS states that there is a time capsule underneath the base of the Dog statue from 1972 containing photographs and other memorabilia for a future generation to discover.
While in the area: Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center is an interesting place to visit, and the Dog statue is just down the road from a very unique one-room schoolhouse built by the WPA. Just north of Crookston is the famous UFO Sheriff’s Car in Warren.