Article Credit: Doris Knutson
In the latter part of the 1950s, an idea that originated in the mind of Baudette Arnold F. Lund, Sr. was soon to become a reality as construction began on the 40-foot, two-and-a-half ton fish statue that now sits on top of the hill at the Baudette Bay.
Now, almost sixty years later and over a decade after his death, Lund’s legacy lives on not only in the iconic Willie Walleye statue but in local organizations that continue to prosper thanks to his generosity.
Recently, the Lake of the Woods Industrial Development Corporation, a longtime benefactor of Lund’s generosity, presented a check for $10,000 to the Willie Walleye Restoration Fund.
Lund is credited with revitalizing the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which, although it had been established in 1962, had been dormant for many years until Lund became involved in the organization in 1987. Under his watch, the IDC accomplished many things.
“Rome would have been built in a day if Arnold had been involved,” said Chuck Tischart, IDC secretary/treasurer.
In 1988, Lund gave the IDC land, buildings and equipment to develop an industrial park. Additional land was later purchased to add to the park.
The industrial park now has city water, sewer and natural gas and has been the home of a variety of businesses over the years, including carpet and flooring businesses, trucking businesses, a recycling center, the ANI hormone plant, the Lake of the Woods Humane Society, and more.
Before his death in November of 2006, Lund set up numerous funds to benefit the community, including an economic development fund, an education fund, and a park fund. Annuities also benefit local organizations such as the IDC and the Humane Society.
Lund also set up a scholarship for Lake of the Woods High School seniors. The stipulation to this scholarship is that, following graduation, the student must enroll in and attend a vocational or technical school.
It’s fitting that Lund’s generosity should come full circle with this latest gift toward the renovation of the area’s beloved mascot.
Lund first brought his idea of a statue that would represent the world-class walleye fishing in the area to the Baudette Civic and Commerce Association. By April of 1958, a blueprint of Lund’s idea was completed and within a month, concrete footing had been poured and work started on the giant fish that would become one of the most recognizable tourist attractions in the state.
Work continued on the statue through 1958 and finally, during Walleye Days in June of 1959, the finished statue, by that time named Willie Walleye, was dedicated.
After standing proudly atop the hill for over half a century, in the last several years Willie had begun to show his age. After much deliberation, the City of Baudette chose to replace the statue with a new, low-maintenance fiberglass version of Willie. Late last year, the Baudette-Lake of the Woods Chamber of Commerce began a fundraising drive to raise $110,000 towards the new version of Willie Walleye.
“The generous donation from the IDC put us well over our goal,” said Willie Walleye Fundraiser Chairperson Mike Hovde.
“This is such a great way to honor Arnold Lund, whose idea it was to construct the original Willie Walleye in the 1950s.”
According to Hovde, the total amount raised has passed $120,000. This includes the city’s contribution which went towards the down payment to allow construction to begin on the new fiberglass statue.
At this time, the statue is scheduled to be completed by mid-June. The Sparta, Wisconsin company’s representative has told the city council they hope to have the statue completed and loaded onto a truck bound for Baudette by June 15th.
“Although we passed our goal, donations are still welcome,” said Hovde.
Extra funds will be used for landscaping the area, possible lighting and signage improvements as well as improvements to the park. Some funds will be set aside in a maintenance fund for future upkeep of the statue.
Willie Walleye Fund,
c/o Baudette-LW Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 659
Baudette, MN 56623