Hiawatha celebrates 50th birthday
IRONWOOD - The Ironwood Area Chamber of Commerce drew tourists from the Midwest for a 50th birthday celebration for the Hiawatha Indian statue Saturday morning.
"We didn't know what to expect," said Ironwood Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sandy Harden, regarding attendance at the ceremony.
Originally from Minnesota, Hiawatha is the world's tallest Indian statue at 52 feet.
"Over the last 50 years, he's endured the Upper Peninsula weather," said Ironwood Mayor Kim Corcoran, "He also, unfortunately, has seen our population decline."
Local historian Larry Peterson gave a brief history of the statue.
"He's representative of the Iroquois League, which is made up of five different tribes," Peterson said. "What his extended hand means is a gesture of welcome," he added. "It's a gesture of peace."
Hiawatha expert Nancy Gotta was also present at the ceremony.
"Hiawatha was the grandchild of Charles Gotta, my father-in-law," she said, adding the idea for the statue came about in 1958 in an attempt to attract tourists to the area.
"Yes, he needs some sprucing up with fresh paint, but don't we all need a little sprucing up, too?" Gotta said.