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A blemish on Babe: Minn. landmark vandalized with graffiti

Babe the Blue Ox was recently vandalized with graffiti. The Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department quickly covered over the lettering. Jordan Shearer / Forum News Service

BEMIDJI -- One of Minnesota’s most iconic landmarks recently was vandalized with graffiti, prompting local officials to quickly paint over the lettering multiple times.

The word “genocide” was painted on the side of Babe the Blue Ox sometime during the overnight hours of Jan. 1-2. The graffiti was painted across the flank of the statue, which faces a portion of Bemidji Avenue.

The city Parks and Recreation Department learned of the vandalism in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 2, and quickly painted over it with a darker shade of blue than the statue itself. Workers then painted a second coat over the first on Thursday to return the statue to its normal appearance.

“Depending on the size and location of it, we try to remove it as soon as possible; most graffiti is gone and repaired within 24 hours,” said Marcia Larson, Bemidji Parks and Recreation director. “Yesterday (Wednesday), we were able to use a paint that would adhere at those temperatures, and then today it warmed up enough that we were able to use paint that blended in better.”

Although the statues have been vandalized periodically throughout the years, Larson said the area is well lit and well traveled enough that it often discourages such acts.

Paul Bunyan Communications keeps a webcam pointed at Paul and Babe for marketing purposes. However, there isn’t more than a few hours of footage kept at any one time. By the time they realized Babe was vandalized, they no longer had footage of the act.

However, the vandalism has prompted Paul Bunyan Communications to begin taking stills of the statues every so often to help document any future incidents.

“Based upon what’s happened out there, we now are snagging still images and storing those,” said Steve Howard, information technology and development manager for Paul Bunyan Communications.

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