By Carol Stiffler
An international event is about to take place in Germfask.
Levi and Durea Brady, who purchased Northland Outfitters on the Manistique River in Germfask last year, have made an enormous investment in the campground. They’ve added shower houses, cabins, a movie theater, and more. And in July, Danish recycle artist Thomas Dambo will install a massive wooden troll on the property.
Called Benny Beardfisher, the troll will reach up to 30 feet long and 12 feet high. He’ll be posed thoughtfully, laying on his side while using his beard to catch fish in the Manistique River. Benny Beardfisher is one of 10 trolls Dambo is installing across the U.S. this summer.
The Bradys are delighted.
“We’ve seen a bunch of them around the country,” Durea said. That includes Dambo’s original troll, Isak Hearthstone, which is on display in Breckenridge, Colorado. But to get one installed locally took a lot of money, prep work, and explaining.
The Bradys first pitched the idea to local places focused on nature and the arts, but the idea didn’t take root. Dambo was already interested, so the Bradys suggested their campground as the next option.
“We sent property videos, and they came out from Denmark to see it,” Durea said. “And then it was full steam ahead.”
The Bradys tackled mountains of prep work, including permits, wetland considerations, campground road work, troll parking lot installation, and creating a walking path for non-camping guests to visit the troll. They gathered support from neighbors and visited the Schoolcraft County Commission to make sure the project was good to go. There were no objections.
The Bradys managed that in addition to running the campground and sending and retrieving paddlers who canoe or kayak the Manistique River. On their busiest day last summer, they had 129 people paddling the river.
“We’re exhausted,” Durea said, “but we love it.”
The head, hands, and feet of the endearing giant arrived last week, having been shipped directly from Denmark to Germfask. The rest of the troll will be built on site from July 13-14 and 17-22.
The body of the troll will be constructed out of hardwood, and the Bradys have been asked to source about 100 hardwood pallets and dimensional lumber of any size.
The wood should be bare, and ideally in good condition. How it was cut doesn’t matter – it can be smooth or rough. People who have wood they’d like to donate are encouraged to call the campground and even send pictures of the wood. If it meets the artist’s needs, the Bradys will send a trailer to gather the materials.
Dambo’s crew includes 10 builders from around the world, but he needs help on site, too. He has requested volunteers to work in four-hour shifts on installation days. Volunteers can sign up by calling the campground.
“There’s really no maximum on people,” Durea said. “I think he wants to do little side projects, too. The more people involved, the more he can do.”
Troll enthusiasts are helping. Dambo has a following – a fan base that includes the owner of a Marquette brewery that just opened. Wood pallets from the brewery are headed to Germfask next. A food truck from downstate is headed up to be there during the installation work.
If Dambos’ trolls at any other site across the world are a measure, Benny Beardfisher will do more than surprise and delight kayakers on the Manistique River. The troll is likely to increase foot traffic at the campground, and may increase overall visits to Germfask. With good care, he might withstand U.P. weather for about 15 years.
Benny Beardfisher is also going to be a character in a children’s book Dambo is writing about the 10 U.S. trolls he’s installing this summer. Each troll tells part of the story, which focuses on conservation.
Durea feels it was meant to be.
“You only live once,” Durea said.