Social Distancing: “Birthplace Of America”

Diving into the Kensington Runestone story in Alexandria


More travel adventures. Today we’re exploring a city that claims to have been explored by Vikings way back in the 1300’s.

Here’s a live look at our friend Big Ole in Alexandria, Minnesota. He’s 28-feet tall, built in 1965, and weighs four tons.
It’s a fun site to see, plus you can pose for photos for the webcam.

We did that when we visited over the weekend. Just pull the live cam up on your phone and take a screen grab.

Now if you notice, Big Ole has a shield that says “Alexandria Birthplace of America”. Normally, you wouldn’t think America would have been founded so far inland from the coast.
But they claim it was, because of The Kensington Runestone. In 1898, a Swedish immigrant named Olof Ohmann claimed he found this stone on his farmland. It has markings that some people at the time claimed were Runes that told the story of Scandinavian explorers in the area in 1362.

Now, the authenticity of this is *very much* in question. Some claim Olof carved the stone himself. Some claim someone did decades earlier, but way after the 1360’s. But they really learn into the story at the Runestone Museum across the street from Big Ole, where the stone lives now.

They love the Runestone story so much you can drive about 20 minutes west of Alexandria to the spot where it was discovered, which is now a county park dedicated to the stone. Even if it is most likely a hoax, the story is still over 120 years old at this point, and very much intertwined with Alexandria history.

Plus, when we discovered Alexandria in our Discover Minnesota segment last month, I found out they make plush toys of Big Ole, and I had to get one. It’s cute!

They’ve even got a brewery near Alexandria named after a line on the Runestone.
I’m very much in the camp that it might not be a true Viking artifact, but that it’s a fantastic story and a cool source of pride for a community.
Let me know where else we can explore in our region on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: Morning – Features