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REGENT, N.D. — The drawbridge is officially lowered for a royal welcome at the Enchanted Castle in the small southwestern town of Regent.

It took 17 months and more than $500,000 to transform the former ’60s-era brick elementary school into a whimsical inn with 19 rooms decked out in a kingly color scheme of purple and gold.

Owner and entrepreneur Gary Greff said he got the effect he was hoping for. He is, after all, the sculptor of the Enchanted Highway, a 30-mile procession of unique metal art works that starts with the "Geese in Flight" sculpture along Interstate 94 and ends in Regent with the "Tin Family" sculpture.

"I wanted the 'wow' factor, something people didn't expect — a castle in North Dakota? Part of the Enchanted Highway has been that 'wow,'" he said.

The Castle opened for business in early May and Greff hopes a trickle of guests turns into a steady stream as word gets out.

Guests pull up to a castle façade at the front of the inn and are greeted by knights in armor in the lobby and hallway. The rooms are roomy, each with a kitchenette, and two extra large rooms have hot tubs.

The former school gym is open for playtime, or shooting buckets. The old locker room is remodeled and holds a couple of large, steaming hot tubs.

One room off the main hallway is set aside for continental breakfast. Greff said he plans to fix up the former school kitchen and eventually serve a hot breakfast buffet. A courtyard behind the castle wall has tables, and eventually a fountain and a gas fire pit for guests who want some outdoor time.

In all, it’s quite a transformation.

"We're ready to rock and roll," said Greff.

Regent Mayor Terry Hartman said he thinks the inn will finally fill that need for lodging among visitors who tour the Enchanted Highway and drive into Regent.

"This has to help keep people in town. It's really impressive," Hartman said.

He said even though the city disappointed some citizens when it sold the school, the improvements and investment are a plus as opposed to empty buildings that attract vandalism.

"I'm plain happy. There are always people looking for places to stay," Hartman said.

Steve Wagendorf is president of the Regent Development Corp. and is employed at the Enchanted Castle.

He said there weren’t enough rooms available for hunters last season, partly because so many homes are selling in town.

"This will really fill that void," he said.

Greff said the project is mostly done, but he still has a classroom wing that will be remodeled into four more guest rooms. Eventually, he plans to remodel the adjacent high school building into guest facilities and build an indoor swimming pool between the buildings.

Far from being tired out after all these months of physical and mental effort, Greff said, he can’t wait to tear into the rest of his castle plans and keep adding to the sculptures out on the Enchanted Highway. His latest sculpture — a spider in a vast metal web — is ready for setup once he finds someone willing to donate a small bit of land along the road.

"I just keep getting fired up every day," he said. "A person can do whatever they want without ever doubting. This will all end when it ends, but by then, I'll be pushing up daisies."

Rooms cost $90 or $110 for a room with a hot tub. Call 701-563-4858 for information.

Reach reporter Lauren Donovan at 220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.

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