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National Paul Bunyan Day celebrates Minnesota's iconic resident

Sophia Haubrich dances in front of the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues on Thursday morning, June 28, while her cousin Sebastian Brooks snaps a photo and her grandmother Gail Haubrich watches. Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service

BEMIDJI, Minn.—Is there any better place to celebrate national Paul Bunyan Day on Thursday, June 28, than in Bemidji, where the legendary Paul and Babe, his big blue ox, reside?

According to the National Calendar Day website, folktales about Paul Bunyan and Babe began making the rounds at lumber camps in Canada and the northeastern U.S. during the Papineau Rebellion of 1837.

In 1914, William Laughead, who was a logger and advertising manager for Red River Lumber Co., according to Forest History, incorporated Paul and Babe in his advertising pamphlets for the company, which helped bring the legendary lumberjack to life in the early 1920s.

Paul Bunyan stories are riddled with history, ranging from the creation of the Grand Canyon to the forming of the Great Lakes.

Although there are many other communities that pay homage to the legendary lumberjack and his sidekick, including Brainerd and Akeley in Minnesota; Bangor, Maine; and Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and California, everyone knows the true Paul and Babe live in Bemidji.

Bemidji's Paul Bunyan statue is an accurate representation of his larger-than-life legend, standing at 18 feet tall with his signature red plaid shirt, which is said to have wagon wheels for buttons, his black mustache and pipe. His loyal companion Babe, named after his baby blue coloring, stands beside him. According to legend, Babe became blue during the harsh Minnesota winter when the snow and ice stained his skin and fur blue.