NEW ULM - Creating a legend can be a lot harder to do than it first appears.
The New Ulm Convention-Visitors Bureau found that out this week with the legend of the giant Hermann's footprint now hanging on the side of the Chamber of Commerce.
The CVB, working with a marketing firm, Haberman's Modern Storytellers, came up with the idea this year of "finding" a giant footprint of Hermann the German, whose statue stands overlooking the city. The CVB commissioned local artist Jason Jaspersen, who created the Gertie the Goose statue in Riverside Park, to design the footprint, and it had American Artstone cast the print. Heymann Construction then installed it on the side of the Chamber Building.
File photo by Josh Moniz
New Ulm Convention and Visitors Bureau Manager Terry Sveine (left) and New Ulm Chamber President Audra Shaneman touch what was promoted as the giant footprint of Hermann the German that hangs on the side wall of the Chamber office building.
To drum up interest, the marketing firm came up with the story that the footprint was an artifact discovered in a dusty corner of the Chamber of Commerce's basement, with an old handwritten note that said "all who touched the footprint would have more fun for a day," and intimating the artifact might have been made in Germany. The CVB has been asking people to submit their ideas about how the footprint came to be.
The project was reported in The Journal on Aug. 2, saying the artifact had "reportedly" been found in the basement.
CVB director Terry Sveine said he has been faithfully following the script in talking about the footprint, but after an article Monday in The Free Press of Mankato was picked up by the Associated Press, and an AP reporter called to verify the story, Sveine and the marketing firm realized the story was getting too big. They contacted the AP, which had already moved a version of the story, and admitted that the footprint had not, in fact, been found in the chamber's basement. The AP moved a story headlined "New Ulm tourism chief admits faking story."
"I felt I was playing the role I was asked to play, and we're not going to do that anymore" Sveine told the AP.
"I felt bad all along. You know, I was an altar boy for six years. I feel very un-altar-boyish," he told the AP.
There is an old saying that "there is no such thing as bad publicity," and the AP article has traveled wide, according to a google search, appearing in publications as far away as the Miami Herald.
While the true story of its origins may not be as legendary as originally written, the footprint has been gaining attention from tourists. People may still submit their theory on the origins of the footprint at New Ulm's Facebook page through Sept. 6.