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Who won the Iron Throne? A retired Richfield couple

Minneapolis Star Tribune logo Minneapolis Star Tribune 6/5/2019 By Katy Read, Star Tribune
Ken James of Richfield modeled the replica Iron Throne from the HBO show “Game of Thrones.” “It fits really good,” he said. © Star Tribune/Star Tribune/Photos by Brian Peterson • brian Ken James of Richfield modeled the replica Iron Throne from the HBO show “Game of Thrones.” “It fits really good,” he said.

As the HBO series "Game of Thrones" approached its finale last month, fans speculated wildly over the popular drama's climactic question: Who would win the Iron Throne, the massive metal chair signifying the new ruler of Westeros? Would it be nice guy Jon Snow? Dragon-riding mad queen Daenerys Targaryen?

Neither. It was Ken and Gail James of Richfield.

Just kidding. Actually it was … well, just go watch the show yourself if you weren't among the 19 million who did. No spoilers here.

But the Jameses, both 68 and retired, were chosen randomly from among 65,000 entrants to win a life-size duplicate of the show's fabled throne, fashioned in fiberglass and resin.

The $18,000 chair, 300 pounds and 7 feet tall but with a human-size seat, was a prize in a national contest sponsored by AT&T for its wire-service customers, promoting its recent acquisition of Time Warner Inc., HBO's owner.

Gail saw the contest on the AT&T website and entered. "I thought it would be maybe a cup or a T-shirt," she said.

Neighbors gathered Tuesday to watch the throne arrive at the Jameses' Richfield house, where Ken had built a paver-lined square for it next to the benches around the firepit. "It fits really good," he said.

People took turns sitting in it and having their pictures taken while brandishing a 3-foot sword owned by one of the James sons, a Dungeons & Dragons fan.

If the winner had been selected by the Lord of Light himself, the show's fictional deity could not have chosen a more appropriate family.

Not everyone would consider a gigantic, silver-gray, sword-studded chair the ideal addition to their decorating schemes. "It would be on eBay two days later," joked Mark Giga, public relations manager for AT&T.

But in the James' backyard, the new piece of furniture fit right in.

Toy-sized gnomes, trolls, goblins, elves, wizards and fairies, hand-painted by Gail, are placed in little fantasy arrangements throughout the property. A frog sits atop a sign that reads, "Frog parking only. All others will be toad."

A 10-foot tree trunk is covered with masks and elves and little painted doors that open to holes with trolls inside. Two larger dragons glare down from atop the trunk. Strings of baubles sparkle among tree branches.

"Aren't these beautiful?" said neighbor Yvonne Altier-Carter, guiding a tour.

To decorate for a daughter's wedding, the Jameses painted a dragon across a wall inside the garage, and a dire wolf — a fierce species of canine that, like dragons, occupied the "Game of Thrones'?" fictional setting but actually existed in prehistoric times — at the bottom of the stairs.

But it's not just decorations that make the Jameses' yard unusual.

Their firepit is a gathering place for their sociable group of neighbors. A gate in their fence opens onto a walking path, and the Jameses often invite random passersby in to chat. They offer Popsicles to the guests, invite them to pick raspberries from the garden, let their children choose little goblins and fairies to take home. Sometimes the strangers become lifelong friends.

The Jameses served a crew from HBO, on hand to make a video of the event, a biscuits-and-gravy breakfast. Everyone gathered in the yard was invited to a hot dog, coleslaw and baked bean lunch.

Unsurprisingly, given their enthusiasm for fantasy, the Jameses were "Game of Thrones" fans. Such huge fans, in fact, that unlike many of the show's loyal viewers who expressed disappointment in its finale, the Jameses found it satisfying.

"We were quite content with the way it worked out," Gail James said.

Katy Read • 612-673-4583


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