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What's up with the gorilla?

A LONG-TIME SOURCE OF curiosity in the area, the gorilla statue on County Road 11 has been decorated many times throughout the years. (Marit Aaseng/Alexandria Echo Press)

A proverbial riddle poses the question, "Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit?"

The common answer: "Anywhere it wants to."

In the Alexandria lakes area, however, many residents and vacationers would answer that it sits on the east side of County Road 11.

For years, a life-size cement beast of the jungle has been a landmark in Alexandria -- its mighty figure adding intrigue to the wooded roadside, and functioning as a unique reference point for directions in the area.

This notorious statue has long been a source of curiosity. Few people know the answer to the riddle of how or why this conspicuous primate sits near Lake Carlos.

Now the story of the gorilla has been revealed.

According to Jo Akenson, a former realtor for the property where the gorilla sits, the curious case dates back many years to when the adjoining property was owned by the late Carrold Johnson.

Johnson's lake cabin was an authentic home influenced by the style of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright -- a special spot where he enjoyed spending weekends and hosting guests.

The unique home was made even more distinctive by the sculpture that marked its hidden driveway for visitors.

The gorilla had to endure a long journey before it reached this resting place.

Johnson encountered the sculpture while vacationing in an appropriately exotic location -- Mexico. When he saw it, he was completely blown away, according to Akenson. He bought it right then and there.

Reportedly, the life-size statue weighs in at more than 800 pounds, so the task of transporting it from Mexico to Minnesota was no easy feat. A flatbed trailer was used for the 1,000-plus-mile journey, and a crane was used to actually set the statue in place on the side of County Road 11.

The gorilla has sat on the roadside ever since; its history fading into obscurity, its notoriety remaining.

Some wacky traditions have surrounded the statue through the years. Hats, sunglasses and scarves have adorned the gorilla from time to time, as well as numerous colorful paint jobs. Each and every year, around the Fourth of July, a mystery person or persons paints the gorilla with stars and stripes galore.

This silliness never lasts for long, though. Another anonymous painter from the area will at times pity the gaudy gorilla and restore it to its original and natural colors.

Next time you are driving on County Road 11, don't be surprised if you see a jungle beast gazing out at you. This unique statue has been through a great deal, but in the end, it's right at home sitting in Alexandria.