People had a chance to see, hold and take photos with Paul Bunyan's Axe Saturday, June 8, at the Brainerd Lakes Welcome Center.

Last fall, the Gophers ended a 15-year drought in the rivalry by regaining the axe with a 37-15 win over the Badgers in Madison, Wis.

Gophers assistant director of marketing Mills Armbruster brought the trophy to the lakes area, the goal after winning the fabled trophy was to bring it to Minnesotans.

The idea was working. Arni Jaegers stopped at the welcome center on his way from his home in Minneapolis to Boyd Lodge and obviously couldn't believe his eyes or his luck and timing.

"Is that THE axe?" Jaegers asked.

The confirmation that it was indeed the actual trophy most only see on TV as it is carried on the football field, had Jaegers in search of family members to take photos of him with Paul Bunyan's Axe.

The trophy goes to the winner of the annual football game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Wisconsin Badgers. Minnesota is in possession of the trophy after beating the Badgers last fall.

Head coach P.J. Fleck and the athletic department decided the best way to celebrate the axe's long-awaited return to Minnesota would be to parade it around the state so as many Gopher fans as possible could see the trophy, Armbruster told The Bemidji Pioneer during a stop in the city with that other Paul Bunyan.

"Coach Fleck wants everyone to touch the axe," Armbruster said. "... We're getting out here with nine stops in three weeks. We're reintroducing it to all the Gopher fans from East Grand Forks down to Rochester and anywhere in between."

The trophy is awarded to the winner of the annual Minnesota/Wisconsin football game, the most-played college rivalry game in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Big Ten rivals have met 128 times since the first game in the series in 1890, and they have played every season since with the exception of 1906.

For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2Wyjfqr.