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Your Town Tuesday: The Unique People, Places, and Things of Gilman [VIDEO]

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This week on “Your Town Tuesday” we head to Gilman. A town that made international news this past winter, thanks to Greg Novak and his snowman Granddaddy.

It was a long hard winter but you needed something to smile about. I made one about 22 years ago. I just decided to do something like that again, you know just a little bigger.

Granddaddy the Snowman
Photo: Dan DeBaun, WJON News

Granddaddy was located outside of Gilman and stood 50 feet tall. People came from far and wide to see the massive snowman. Novak says he had seen people from Texas, Alaska, and even Germany visiting Granddaddy.

The story of Novak and Granddaddy even made it to newspapers and TV shows around the world. Novak had heard that Granddaddy showed up in the newspaper in Aruba, and a morning TV news show in Hawaii. Novak and Granddaddy even got media coverage over in Australia.



But eventually Granddaddy started melting away. That last bit of snow finally disappeared on Memorial Day Friday at 7:30 p.m. Novak was still able to have a little bit of fun before Granddaddy was completely gone.

Granddaddy Melting
Photos: Joan Paggen

After when the face started falling off we took that down. I remade sad eyes and turned the smile upside down so it was a frown and redid the nose and put that stuff back in so it was actually a sad snowman melting.

Novak walking in his Vegetable Patch
Photo: Joshua Akkerman, WJON News

Granddaddy is not the only thing Novak is known for.

He and his family just celebrated their farms centennial this past year. They have been growing vegetables on their farm, supplying local farmers markets as well as some grocery stores in St. Cloud. It all started with his grandfather growing pickles for a local store in Gilman.

Novak enjoys being able to provide people with fresh veggies picked right here in central Minnesota.

I think more people are becoming aware of it that this is happening. There are more people canning now a days and pickling, canning salsas, tomatoes, pickles, potatoes, green beans. Everything for the winter.

Driving through Gilman I came across the Gilman Community Park.  The park was built in 1985 with two tennis courts and two softball fields. Soon after that the Gilman Park and Rec was formed. Gilman Park and Rec member Michelle Spiczka says the park has become a big part of the community.

Gilman Community Park Softball
Photo: Joshua Akkerman, WJON News

The park at times has housed 38 adult softball leagues and over 420 kids in youth leagues. So we value our youth participation. And that’s what our Gilman Park and Rec motto is, to provide things for the youth.

Gilman Community Park Playground
Photo: Joshua Akkerman, WJON News

Over the years a walking path, playground equipment, a shelter, and a third softball field have been added to the park. Today the park hosts four different leagues as well as multiple tournaments.  Joanne Vanderbeek, League Manager in Gilman, says everyone enjoys all the different features.

“It’s very nice its well kept. We have had a lot of compliments on how the fields have looked.”

My trip to Gilman isn’t over, and it wouldn’t be complete without a ride on….

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Gilman Hillbillies Wheelie Truck
Photo: Joshua Akkerman, WJON News

…the Gilman Hillbillies Wheelie Truck. Driver Larry Spiczka says people come from all around to get a glimpse at his 1977 GMC pickup.

Spiczka says, “It will be February or March and I’ll be somewhere, and they don’t know me and I don’t know them and somehow it’ll get brought up. And they’ll say how much their kids love seeing it.”

"What I like doing the best is going where no one has seen it before. And as soon as the front end comes off the ground I look into the crowd and all I see are mouths wide open.  That’s the best thing."Between doing wheelies and having water fights with the onlookers, Spiczka says the best part is seeing the joy on every ones face.

“What I like best is even the older people turn into kids when they see it. Because it’s fun. There’s not too many people that just go do parades just to bring joy.”

Recently the Gilman Hillbillies took first place at the Hillman Parade.

More Stories From Your Town Tuesday

We have already been to FoleyRiceHoldingfordAvon, Albany, and St. Stephen. Let us know what makes your town special to Central Minnesota and it might end up on “Your Town Tuesday.”

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