Monday, December 1, 2008

Finding Minnesota: North St. Paul's Giant Snowman

It has stood in stoic silence against traffic's constant hum for more than 30 years.

People around Highway 36 and Margaret Street in North St. Paul, Minn. said they just take it for granted because it's been there so long.

The welcoming sight of a 44-foot-tall snowman along the busy highway began as a pipedream during one man's Disneyland vacation.

Carol Koesling is the widow of the snowman's creator.

"He saw the structures (at Disneyland) and that's what he thought North St. Paul could use,'" Koesling said.

Lloyd Koesling was the local businessman who hatched the idea, after some warm winters spoiled the city's festival fun. In 1972, plans were drawn and work began on a permanent snowman, made of stucco and steel.

"When you're going up the highway and they see that snowman, they know they're in North St. Paul," Carol Koesling said.

Unveiled in 1974, the snowman quickly became the city's symbol. It was put onto postcards, iron-on patches, stationery and street signs.

"Well they say it's the world's largest snowman," Carol Koesling said.

It wore a 16-foot smile until March 2002, when Lloyd Koesling died.

A young child was so saddened by the news, she colored a picture for Carol Koesling. It showed the snowman crying.

"She drew this picture and sent it to me, and then of course it wasn't just the snowman crying, Carol was crying," Carol Koesling said.

While Mother Nature poses no threat to the stucco snowman, the Minnesota Department of Transportation might. The snowman sits very close to Highway 36 and major improvements are on the way.

"We will be lowering Highway 36 at Margaret Street and there's as much interest in the snowman as the new bridges along the way," said city engineer Dave Kotilinek.

Kotilinek promises protection saying there are currently no plans to move the snowman, unless the city finds something better.

Lloyd Koesling's gravestone will forever bear an etching of his legacy, of the snowman that is symbolic of a city's warmth.

"It's a nice memory of Lloyd that will last for quite awhile," Carol Koesling said.

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