Gilman farmer again makes news with his 50-foot snowman
By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
It’s been more than 20 years since Greg Novak, then 32, built a snowman — and in 1992 it was a doozy — standing 29 feet tall.
At that time, his “Alberta Snow King” drew worldwide attention and thousands of onlookers.
This year, with bountiful snow and lots of cold, Novak has outdone himself with the “Granddaddy” of all snowmen at nearly double the height.
“Granddaddy” has a smile 10-feet wide and stands more than 50 feet tall.
Some of the other names suggested by family members included El Grande, Chilly, Guardian and Mrs. Snovak. But, because the Novak farm, started by Novak’s great-grandfather, was named a Century Farm in 2013, “Granddaddy” was the name that stuck.
With all the snow Novak thought it was time to build another, especially since many of his nieces and nephews weren’t around to see the first one.
Snow was taken from a small area in the yard. “There’s not a shortage of snow,” said Novak.
He started the project Jan. 29 and completed it Feb. 27.
“Greg does this for people’s enjoyment,” said his sister, Joan Paggen.
Since its completion, a television appearance and AP coverage, visitors from far and wide have made the trek in sub-zero temperatures to the farm in Gilman near Foley to see the snowman that dwarfs its 6-foot, 2-inch creator.
With a guest book sitting nearby, Novak and Paggen have seen the names of visitors from across Minnesota — as well as from the states of Virginia, North Carolina and North Dakota, although Paggen noted the out-of-staters were visiting Minnesota relatives.
Along with the guestbook, is a book of 8-inch by 10-inch photos that show the progression of the project. Paggen also tried to keep a supply of photos of Granddaddy for people to take with them.
Most people say Granddaddy is better in person than on television, she said.
The guests not only sign their names but jot a note, such as “thank you” or “this is great.”
Novak used a snow fence to form the 45-foot base, which is between 16 – 20 feet tall. He filled the fence with an elevator before moving to the next layers, which required the use of a silage blower.
Novak’s frosty friend has eyes made out of 4-foot by 6-foot plywood sheets instead of coal, has a 5-gallon drum instead of a button for a nose. Granddaddy’s hat was formed with two cattle panels, 32 feet around and 10 feet across, covered with black fabric, like that used to keep weeds down in a garden.
That same fabric, an 80-foot length of it, was used for the scarf. “It took a while to wind the scarf around the neck,” said Novak.
A 61-foot auger, one that had bent and was not usable, was gutted and then pulled through the body to form arms. Branches on either end, form the snowman’s hands.
No snowman would be complete without a broom and for this tall guy, a 35-foot broom was necessary.
Novak said someday he’d like to sit down and figure out how many square feet of snow were needed for Granddaddy.
The first snowman, built around Christmas 1991, was melted by Easter 1992.
“This one probably won’t be gone until July,” said Paggen.
Neighbors and family helped with the project, including neighbors, Tom Mueller, Leo Zimmerman and Jerry Ratke, his brother Danny Novak and nephew Tanner Miller.
Novak raises cattle, a few hogs and some crops, but the farm produces mainly vegetables, started in high tunnels. “Novak’s Grown-Right Produce” is sold at farmers markets and at some grocers such as Coborn’s, Cashwise and Byerly’s.
Novak and Paggen come from a family of eight, four boys and four girls, the children of LeRoy and Lorraine Novak. LeRoy passed away two years ago in April. Lorraine, at 75, still helps with the produce.
“She’s the one that is probably the quality control with the vegetables,” said Paggen.
Everyone is welcome to visit Granddaddy — the address is 15356 105th Ave. N.E., Foley.