Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

DesMoines Register article today!

Erika Nelson should be an Iowan. She would fit right in with our taste for the large and oddball, which she will speak of today at Iowa State University in Ames.

Nelson, of Lucas, Kan., gathers stories and photographs of the nation's largest roadside attractions, every large ceramic bullhead and ball of twine, every giant popcorn ball and ketchup bottle.

Then, she makes small replicas of the attractions to put in a mobile museum called the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum.

About 10 years ago, Nelson began her quest for the unusual because everything started looking the same across America. With interstate travel, the roadside monuments had grown few and far between, so she decided to catalog them.

"I really like the Iowa monuments - Albert the Bull in Audubon, the popcorn ball in Sac City," said Nelson, director of the World's Largest Things, a nonprofit organization in Lucas.

Iowa has 15 attractions on her list on www.worldslargest, including the giant strawberry in Strawberry Point, the colossal bullhead in Crystal Lake - erroneously listed as a catfish on her Web site - and the 25-foot Pocahontas in Pocahontas.

In 2002, Nelson dived headlong into the task as a full-time job, traveling to every state. She found the stories were even more interesting than the monuments, such as the gigantic cow hair ball in Kansas and the humongous clothespin in Philly.

One of the most poignant stories, she said, is the world's largest penny in Woodruff, Wis.

A local doctor in the 1930s decided the town needed a hospital. Everyone told the doctor she was nuts, the town was too small. So she asked the kids to help her with a million-penny march.

The kids' million pennies launched the building of a hospital still operating today.

So residents built a giant cement penny.

Iowa has a big story, as well.

In Sac City, residents built the World's Largest Popcorn Ball in 1995 to recognize the significance of corn as a crop. It was so popular, they hauled it to the Iowa State Fair. Travelers constantly wanted to see it, which grew tiresome.

So they had a grownup-kid idea: Let's blow it up and see what happens.

Seven sticks of dynamite were inserted into the ball, a crowd gathered and - poof! - the ball's sticky goo smothered the explosion. It rather gently broke apart.

By 2004, Sac City residents missed the giant ball and decided to build an even bigger one - 3,100 pounds - and house it indoors.

A resurgence of interest in Route 66 and other secondary roads is led by people who were once the kids in the backseat and who are now trying to save what they saw.

Many have disappeared, including the world's largest cedar bucket in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Yet new ones pop up every day, as Internet users catch on to the blog on her Web site and suggest roadside attractions.

What does it all mean? What is the greater significance of the world's largest cow skull in Arizona and the biggest chili can in Beloit, Wis.?

"Once you tell people the story behind the monuments, they begin to understand the community which built them," Nelson said.

"Also, the monuments show the American spirit - that defiance.

"I think it's a young-country thing. Canada and Australia also have a lot of these kitschy structures. We are somehow trying to make up for the fact we don't have the same history as our ancestors. But we know how to build a really big chicken."

Reporter Mike Kilen can be reached at (515) 284-8361 or

Here's the link to the actual article, with pics:
Des Moines Register "Kansas goes on the road for Quirky"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Book Links, Reviews

Spent the morning adding more Amazon book links to the Recommendations and Book List page. Instant Roadside Attraction Library at your fingertips! I'll be adding more reviews on the must-haves, as well as a section for books written by World's Largest Things Members.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DANGER! Vernacular Patent Drawings online

As if every single one of you need more distractions online, here's a great site with patent drawings:
Googie signage, Commercial Archeology, and Mimetic gems, they've got it all...

Reviewing the World's Largest Things lecture

Spending the evening going over the WLT Lecture for Friday's event at Iowa State University a few more times, adding in photo credits for all those Roadside Vernacular and Mimetic Architecture nuts out there..

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Upcoming Event Details - Iowa State University

A History of Roadside Attractions - Erika Nelson
Date/Time:Friday, 25 Apr 2008 at 8:00 pm
Location:South Ballroom, Memorial Union
Erika Nelson is director of the World's Largest Things, a nonprofit corporation for the study of roadside vernacular architecture, including such Iowa attractions as Audubon's Albert the Bull, Adair's talking Happy Chef, Stanton's Swedish coffeepot water tower, and the Pocahontas landmark statue. Nelson is the founder and curator of the traveling roadside museum The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things. Her artist-in-residence projects have covered such topics as storytelling and quiltmaking and Art Car development, and her many installations and exhibits include Domesticated: Deconstructing the American Dream and CanFormations. She has a BFA in illustration from Central Missouri State University and an MFA in textiles from the University of Kansas. This public talk will follow the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society banquet.

Cosponsored By:
  • History
  • Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society
  • Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)

Writeup on How Stuff Works

One of the many many sites featuring the nuts and bolts of living, WLT Inc. made the list of 6 peculiar Museums on a recent article:

Found on the National Scenic Byways site

As a part of the Post Rock Scenic Byway, they've uploaded an early pic of the "Scout" vehicle on the National Scenic Byways site:

Morning Interview, DesMoines Register

In anticipation of the upcoming University of Iowa lecture, this Friday at 8:00 p.m., Union Ballroom on campus in Ames, I had a nice chat with a reporter from the DesMoines Register this morning.

Keep your eyes open for an article Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, Iowans!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

From the Email Inbox: Artland

From:  The Folks
Sent: Saturday, April 12, 2008 7:49 AM
Subject: Artland

Good morning.
I just wanted to report on H.C.'s phone call last night.  She was so excited.  She had recently changed her TV cable service, and so she now receives Artland.  She was beside herself when she found Erika, the Garden of Eden, the Travel Plate, and the bus on TV.  So she had to call and report and offer to tape the show for us.
Have a good day.  Love, Mom

Thursday, April 10, 2008

From the Email Inbox: World's Largest Cornflake, Continued

Hello Erika,
Thank you for replying. My cornflake is from a box of Kellogg's frosted flakes. I actually stated the measurements wrong. It's 7 cm tall by 5 cm wide. It's not folded. I was pretty surprised when it fell into my bowl.
I loved the story about the potato chip on your website.

From the Email Inbox: WLCo/WSVo/WLT in Vegas?

Hi….my name is Todd VonBastiaans and my friend Chris Scally has been telling me about you for many years…..and today she sent a picture of herself at your traveling museum. I have an art gallery in Las Vegas and I’m on the board for the First Friday arts event. I was wondering if you are traveling west anytime in the next two years….I would love to see if Vegas is a place you’d be interested in showing the gallery or possible a mini exhibition. Just so you know I’m not crazy feel free to google my name. Here are a few things I’ve done in the past that are interesting and have some relevance to an attraction like yours.

Triple A Via magazine published an article about an artist created mini golf project I sponsored and produced for Las Vegas. It was supposed to run two months and went for almost a year. Spin magazine also wrote it up as one of the 50 roadside attractions to do two summers ago.

I’m a proud sponsor of the Burlesque hall of fame which used to be in Barstow CA…but now is located in Las Vegas and I have donated their space to them for the last year.

I have a gallery that is run more like an exhibition space. Atomic Todd is it’s name. The new show that is opening next month is fashion made from items only found at a 99 Cents store. The show after that is the History of Monti Rock the Third…..

Anyway I don’t mean to make this long…but I’d be really interested in starting a communication if you are interested in spreading the joy of your museum to Las Vegas locals.

Thanks, Todd VonBastiaans

Hi, Todd - please excuse my tardiness in replying!

It was great meeting two of the WLT members in-person, and I'm so glad Chris shared her photos with you! I love the concept of your projects, and think we could work on a great partner exhibit... I retired the 'old' mobile museum, and moved WLT Inc. into non-profit status to build a bigger, better road exhibition space, using a retired bookmobile as a basis.

Things are moving MUCH slower than I anticipated, though, in working through the biz end of a new Non-Profit, so I don't know when the Gerstenslager will start touring (They are also proud participants in the development of the Weinermobile, adding the bun element when they produced the 50's design! Great legacy to be connected to.). BUT, we're trying to figure out ways to keep the collection traveling in the meantime.

We just sent off about 30 pieces to the University of Cincinnatti for a little show, and are producing a stand-alone sort of 'shadow box' of another part of the collection for a festival. I'd love to brainstorm about a collaboration that would bring the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things to Las Vegas in the next few years. (W.L. Cubit Zirconia is housed in the Libarache museum there, and the University has the W.L. flashlight). Please, let me know what you're thinking.

Thanks for getting in touch, and chat soon!

-Erika Nelson, Director

World's Largest Things, Inc., home of the
World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things (temporarily non-)Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fact Checking, Upcoming Article

from a Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations visit in '07... On Flickr!

Just got a fact-checking article from the folks at the Columbia Missourian, for an article featuring the World's Largest Ball of Video Tape, and, by extension, the World's Smallest Version of the World's Largest Ball of Video Tape.

Coming out in May, Mid-Missouri!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Good Feedback...

Every Tuesday evening, director Erika goes to an Open Studio session at the Lincoln Art Center. During the course of our work, one man looks up from his canvas to say, "Good job - saw you guys in the Kansas Country Living magazine!" (Magazine distributed to Rural Electric CoOp customers, April issue). Just another instance of advertising and articles reaching out to real people...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Member Packets and Postcards

Off in today's mail, an EXCLUSIVE Member's Only Postcard, featuring upcoming lectures, World's Smallest Version of World's Largest Things appearances, and a new Member Packet.

Keep on Living Large!

Friday, April 4, 2008

From the Email Inbox: World's Largest Cornflake

Hello. Just wondering, how big was the cornflake before it arrived in pieces? I've got one that's pretty large (7mm tall by a bit more than 5mm wide) but I'm wondering just how big was the "World's largest cornflake". If mine is puny than I'll just eat it!

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my inquiry.


Re: World's Largest Cornflake

That's not puny! I believe mine was just under that in length, and only about 3 mm wide although that part was folded over. It looks like you have a winner! Was it from an actual Kellogg's Corn Flake box? Thanks for writing in, and color me jealous...-Erika Nelson, DirectorWorld's Largest Things Inc.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pressing engagements...

Just got off the phone with a reporter for the Columbia Missourian, discussing the World's Largest Ball of Video Tape, which accompanies the guys from Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations. Look for an issue extolling the virtues of Largess in early May!

And, there may be an upcoming KU Alumni Magazine article about the Big Little Big stuff, too - we'll keep ya' posted!

Thanks for all the print attention, members of the Fourth Estate. You are appreciated.

-Erika Nelson, Director, WLT Inc.

From the Email Inbox: Big Cheese

Made by Steve's Cheese, Denmark, Wisconsin
This famous cheese was on display at the New York World's Fair.  We mail and express Gift Boxes.  Our Speciality is Natural Wisconsin Cheddar, Mild, Aged, and Old.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Weekly Whats Large Where to papers!

A new batch is ready for print in select Midwestern states. If you have a small town that you think would be interested in the column Weekly What's Large Where, let us know!

Thanks, and keep on Living Large!

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