When it comes to roadside attractions, bigger is better. If you've managed to actually construct a large roadside attraction, your work has only begun. Maintaining the world's largest of anything is an ongoing job that requires, at the very least, a good deal of paint -- especially in harsh climates. Promotion is another necessity; you need to communicate to the car-bound masses that the world's largest hockey stick or pencil sharpener or rubber band ball exists and let them know where they can find it.
You might call the Guinness Book of World Record folks to alert them to your new record-setting creation, although they're notoriously finicky about adding categories that are too obscure. But you don't need their blessing. You know you have the world's largest...whatever it might be. To see some of what you're up against, check out the best of the world's largest in the following pages.
Laying claim to the largest chair in the United States has been a back and forth affair over the years, starting with a 12-foot-tall Mission style chair built in Massachusetts in 1905. Contenders over the years came from Tennessee, North Carolina and Vermont, before settling on a three-story plus armchair that serves as an advertisement for Miller's Office Furniture in downtown Anniston, Ala. This 33-foot chair was built in the 1980s and is said to trump numerous other big chairs scattered across the planet. This actual chair itself is formidable, with 10 tons of steel behind its construction. A chair in Italy stands at the world's tallest at 60 feet; just don't tell the fine people of Anniston.
Down the coast a bit from San Francisco, Castroville, Calif., is the "Artichoke Center of the World," thanks to its famous Green Globe 'chokes and a $50 million local industry. The city pays homage to this distinction with a 20-foot-tall steel vegetable (built in 1963) and an annual Artichoke Festival, which named Norma Jean Baker (a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe) its inaugural Artichoke Queen in 1947. The artichoke, born from the mind of builder Ray Bei, was built from concrete and rebar as a centerpiece for a restaurant and vegetable stand complex. At 12 feet across, this artichoke, if real, would truly feed a small army.
The 80-foot Uniroyal Tire didn't start out as just a tire. It was first a Ferris wheel at the New York 1964-1965 World's Fair before its creators brought it home to Michigan. While it would fit on a 200-foot-tall car just fine, today, the 12-ton radial serves as an advertisement at Uniroyal headquarters just off I-94.
The tire was built to withstand hurricane force winds, so you should pay no mind to the rumor that it was dislodged at one point and rolled across the highway. Uniroyal also pulled a little publicity stunt in 1998 when it punctured the tire with the world's largest nail in order to help promote its new puncture-resistant tire.
A monument to the fact that modern hybrid seed corn production began in Olivia, Minn. -- "Minnesota's Corn Capital" -- this 25-foot ear is mounted atop a gazebo in Memorial Park on U.S. Highway 212. Created in 1973, the Corn Monument tops its closely related cousin, the corny water tower in Rochester, Minn. This "ear of corn" from Seneca Foods, originally built by Libby Foods, is really just a functioning water tower made of fiberglass and painted to look like a shucked ear of yellow corn.
In the warmer months, in the middle of Silver Lake in Virginia, Minn., you're bound to catch a glimpse of a floating loon named Ginny. But Ginny isn't like any loon you've ever seen. She's a 21-foot-long monument built by the "Land of the Loon" festival committee. They built her from fiberglass over a metal frame in 1982, just a few years after a smaller version was vandalized. You don't need to worry about this loon coming ashore, though -- it's tethered to the bottom of the lake by a steel cable.
Originally known as the "Bureau of Information," the world's largest chest of drawers lives in High Point, N.C. and was constructed in 1926 as a monument to the city's status as "Home Furnishings Capital of the World."
The chest is actually the facade of the home of the High Point Jaycees, which is a humanitarian organization. Getting your picture taken next to this large dresser makes even the tallest person look tiny in comparison. The Goddard-Townsend style dresser was rebuilt in 1996 to meet its current 38-foot-tall version. Not to be outdone, a furniture company down the road built a dresser more than 80 feet tall, but it's not freestanding; it's actually an elaborate storefront.
One of many tourist magnets at the Swiss-themed Alpine Homestead Restaurant, this intricate 23.5-foot-tall cuckoo clock was constructed in 1972 and has been in heated competition with the Bavarian Clock Haus in Frankenmuth, Mich., for the title of the world's largest. The clock was formerly located in Wilmot, Ohio, and its supporters argue that a house can't truly be considered a clock. In 2010 it was moved to its current location in Sugarcreek, also known as "The Little Switzerland of Ohio."
Apparently, oversized loons are all the rage on the roadside attractions circuit. Mercer, Wis., the self-proclaimed "Loon Capital of the United States," is home to a 16-foot loon that weighs a ton and is said to be the world's largest talking loon. Named "Claire d' Loon," she was introduced to the people of Mercer, Wis., in 1981. Standing tall outside the Chamber of Commerce building, it's actually the third largest loon, and the only of the large ones that "talks," or makes pre-recorded loon calls. Located on N. Highway 51, Claire has seen its better days -- it's been shot at more than once, and the voice box is in various states of disrepair, depending on when you pay her a visit.
Americans don't have the market cornered on building large roadside attractions, and Australia has never been one to be outdone by any country. Built in 1964 by John Landy, the "Big Banana" started out as a way to get some attention for his roadside banana stand. The Coffs Harbour fruit monument has since grown into a full-fledged theme park, with rides, a café, a candy kitchen, a puppet show, ice rink and nursery. The recreation area named for the large banana also boasts Australia's tallest waterslide, at more than three stories high.
If you were to take a trip to southern Australia's Limestone Coast you might be met with a very large and very red welcome wagon -- "The Big Lobster." In the mid 1970s, a local fisherman named Ian Backler was inspired to build The Big Lobster after traveling to the United States. It stands at more than 50 feet tall and close to 50 feet long, and there's a funny story that helps explain its size. Rumor has it that when builder Paul Kelly was given the plans for the monument to this deep sea delicacy, he read the measurement in meters instead of feet, tripling the original planned size of the lobster. Whether or not that's true doesn't matter much to the scores of visitors who stop by The Big Lobster for a photo opp.
How does Swindon's Magic Roundabout traffic circle work? Learn more in this HowStuffWorks Now article.
- BigBanana.com. "About the Big Banana." Jan. 14, 2012. http://www.bigbanana.com/aboutthebigbanana.html
- "Best Roadside Attractions in Minnesota, Part 3." Minnesota.cbslocal.com. August 2, 2011. http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-roadside-attractions-in-minnesota-part-3/
- "Ear of Corn Water Tower." Roadsideamerica.com. January 14, 2012. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/4025
- "The Big Lobster." Thebiglobster.com.au. January 14, 2012. http://www.thebiglobster.com.au/
- "World's Largest Chair: The Battle Rages." Roadsideamerica.com. January 14, 2012. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/28914
- "World's Largest Chest of Drawers." Roadsideamerica.com. January 14, 2012. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2148
- "World's Largest Tire." Roadsideamerica.com. January 14, 2012. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/8258