By: Heidi Enninga, WDIO News
Mineview in the Sky’s iconic yellow trucks have been drawing in locals and tourists off Highway 53 for almost 40 years, and on Sunday, it welcomed its last visitors before permanently closing.
More than 800 people came to bid adieu to the attraction between Virginia and Eveleth, celebrating with a barbeque, games, music and of course, the popular trucks.
Under the watchful eye of his dad, six- year-old Aiden Salo was climbing in, around and under the big trucks. At his age, it might have been the closest he’ll get to driving the massive Iron Range mining equipment that his dad uses every day. Salo said someday, he’ll drive the big trucks just like his dad.
The chance to get up close to mining brought in more than 22,000 visitors to Mineview in the Sky just this season. Lori Beth Maki is manager for the tourist center and Shop at the Top.
“It’s important to everyone from all over the world, people come up here every year,” Maki said.
The retired equipment and abandoned mine pit visitors come to see is a sign of the ever-changing mining industry. Maki said she’s always known that the land where Mineview has been sitting on for 36 years, would someday be needed for the industry it pays tribute to.
“We did know, absolutely,” Maki said. “We were fortunate to use it the number of years that we did.
Now, that time has come. The expansion of the nearby taconite mine is just a part of the community’s evolution because as the mining industry grows, so does the local economy.
Brad Carlson of Ely was visiting the mine and his hometown on Sunday. He said he wanted to make a one more stop before Mineview closed. As an Iron Ranger, he said the community is used to towns, schools, roads and now attractions moving out from under future mines.
“There’s always been that sort of change happening here on the range,” Carlson said. “When we were children here, there were abandoned pits filled with water and we’d go skinny-dipping in them.”
Carlson said the day was filled with nostalgia, however, as he took in the picturesque views one last time.
“We used to ride our bikes up here, it was a big adventure, Carlson said. “It’s going to be a whole new landscape.”
Maki said she hopes there can be new Mineview memories made soon. She’s heading up an effort establish a new Mineview in the Sky at another site nearby. She’s seeking approval from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the local mining companies and the city of Virginia.
As for the big old trucks, Maki said they haven’t figured out yet if they can be preserved and moved or if they will have to be scrapped.