Get a Taste for These Great American Food-Themed Attractions
Roadside attractions can be corny, but some of them are just intriguing enough to make you hungry for discovering a little more about them (or at least about the destination they’re in). Some tall-standing items relate to real-life agricultural ties, others reflect public or personal achievements or personal marketing claims, and others result from invention. Then, there are those that make for a great publicity photo (or these days, a nice Instagram pic). And if your mouth starts watering, you’ll be glad to find out that there might just be actual food onsite, as many of these food-based attractions are a part of a shop or restaurant.
The World’s Largest Artichoke
WHERE: Giant Artichoke Restaurant, Castroville, Calif.
Artichokes are a big deal in this agricultural town between Monterey and Santa Cruz–so much that its slogan is the “Artichoke Capital of the World.” One location to honor this thistle flower is at this restaurant complex with a 20-foot tall concrete and rebar replica built in 1963. Here, visitors can purchase these green pieces of goodness from a fresh produce store or dine inside the restaurant from a menu featuring over 15 different servings of artichokes.
The restaurant’s best-seller is their deep-fried artichokes made from a 1930s recipe and paired with a dipping sauce in flavor options ranging from an in-house made ranch dressing, to a chipotle, garlic or lemon pepper aioli.
World’s Largest Orange
WHERE: Florida Orange World, Kissimmee, Fla.
Atop this kitschy retail shop sits a 60-foot-high fiberglass orange dome that’s been halved on there since 1984. Opened in 1971, this souvenir store along Highway 192 has a citrus theme where visitors can shop for bushels of honeybell tangelos, oranges, red ruby grapefruits, and other Floridian fruit, along with old school merchandise that reflect a different era. Some product examples are a melted Florida snowman, lime jelly, orange blossom perfume, and items related to a certain mouse and his magical land. Along with being a fun off-highway stop, Orange World has gotten some screen time too: the building has cameos in the films, “The Florida Project” and “Marvin’s Room.”
World’s Largest Popcorn Ball
WHERE: Sac City Museum Village, Sac City, Iowa
This Iowa town keeps its love for popcorn poppin’, as this large puffy treat is in its fourth incarnation over its 20-year existence. Originating in 1995, as a way to celebrate Iowa’s Sac County popcorn industry, the first ball weighed 2,225 pounds. Yet, there was a problem–with being stored in a popcorn plant’s warehouse, the manager had to leave work to let visitors be able to see it. The 2004 version got moldy and became animal feed.
Plus, over time, Sac City faced serious corn competition. In 2013, a rival popcorn ball at the Indiana State Fair surpassed the 2009 winner, a 5,000 pound-version of the Iowan star, at 6,510 pounds. This version also began to deteriorate, so it was decided that next, even bigger one should have a holder; an Iowan plastics company constructed a “bowl” to help hold its shape. In June 2016, popcorn ball number four resulted from a recipe involving 2,300 pounds of popcorn, 2,500 pounds of dry syrup mix and 4,900 pounds of sugar with just enough lecithin additive to make it stick. These days, this over 12-foot, 9,370-pound ball doubles as a popular photo backdrop.
World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle
WHERE: Collinsville, Illinois
Built in 1949 for the G.S. Suppiger ketchup bottling plant, as a direct water supply, this 170-foot-tall water tower along Route 159, south of downtown Collinsville, has a history just as tangy as their condiment, Brooks Old Original Rich and Tangy Ketchup. The tower was constructed for practical reasons (running the plant and powering a new fire protection sprinkler system) but the company president suggested that the structure be built in the shape of their ketchup bottles. It could hold up to 100,000 gallons of water, but it’s not known what the ketchup equivalent would be. In the 1960s, the need for the tower got bottled up due to a company merger and bottling operations being moved to Indiana. When this property went up for sale in 1993, a Ketchup Bottle Preservation Group stepped in to save the water tower from possible demolition and raised $80,000 for its needed restoration through a nationwide “Paint It!” campaign; the work was completed in June of 1995. In August of 2002, the bottle/water tower was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
World’s Largest Egg
WHERE: Mentrone, Indiana
This Northeastern Indiana town is referred to as “The Egg Basket of the Midwest” due to it being a major commercial egg producer. It also has laid claim to having the largest egg in the world–a manmade object that is ten feet in height and weighs 3,000 pounds. And it’s an organic egg, so to speak, in that it was made of concrete that is said to contain limestone aggregate (which can be found in Indiana). Located on the southeast corner of E. Main and S. Morgan streets, this egg came to be in 1946 by a man named Ed Ward, who was also the manager of the Northern Indiana CO-OP Association and area egg farmers. When the concrete egg was completed, it was placed on a truck by twelve men and was used, initially, to promote an egg show. The egg has an outlined shape of Indiana and a basket of other eggs on it, and serves as a reminder of the annual egg festival, which, this year, is set for the end of May, 2019.
World’s Largest Blueberry
WHERE: Wild Blueberry Land, Columbia Falls, Maine
This farm stand and amusement attraction along coastal Maine is a bright blue piece of Columbia Falls’ legacy as an abundant natural source of this indigenous wild fruit. Along with shopping for berry-related baked goodies and gifts, Wild Blueberry Land has a special blueberry that stays ripe all year round: a large dome atop its building. Currently owned and operated by Dell and Marie Emerson, the wooden rooftop blueberry was built with some help from their relatives. It measures 50-by-26 feet and was built to bring more attention not only to this native North American fruit but also to the local growers who raise and sell them. Along with this fun roof decor, Wild Blueberry Land also has a wild blueberry themed mini-golf course. Enjoy the fruits of the Emersons’ labor too, as Dell is the farmer, while Marie handles baking duties.
World’s Largest Cherry Pie Pan
WHERE: Traverse City and Charlevoix, Michigan
Like Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” Michigan has a tale of two world’s largest cherry pies with their tins being about a 50-mile distance from each other. This is the story of how two roadside attractions in two separate locations within the state–with both of them being a cherry pie pan–became the subject of a size claim battle.
First, Charlevoix set up a world record for this type of pie in May 1976, when a man named Dave Phillips convinced city officials to make such a grand pie in timing with their annual cherry festival. Their major public event led to the baking of a dessert weighing a grand total of 17,420 pounds with a giant tin built for the occasion. The record stood sweetly until July 1987 when Traverse City decided to make a recipe for a cherry pie to top the Charlevoix record, with a similar public baking event of their own. This pie and its respective pan beat Charlevoix’s pie by creating a concoction that exceeded 28,000 pounds.
Both Michigan pies would go to eventually lose the title to another victor – the city of Oliver, British Columbia, when THEY created a 37,713-pound cherry pie in 1990.
Back in Michigan, the pies may be gone but the tins are still on display.
World’s Largest Ear of Corn
WHERE: Memorial Park, Olivia, Minnesota
Renville County is considered to be Minnesota’s top-producing corn county, with 2018 records indicating that county farmers planted 236,000 acres of corn, yielded 207.8 bushels per acre and a whopping 48.9 million bushels of corn. Over 40 years before this feat, in 1973, in the village of Olivia, in Minnesota’s Renville County, a 75-foot corn statue was erected atop a gazebo in Memorial Park to reflect Olivia’s stance as Minnesota’s “Corn Capital.” Information panels at the base of this statue tell more history of how this rural Minnesota community earned this official this designation by the 1993 Minnesota Legislature. Yet, along with being a sign of accomplishment, the shucked corn statue has is a sign of respect to Bob Rauenhorst, owner of the Trojan Seed Company who was a major leader in Olivia’s seed-producing history and came up with the idea for this display. Rauenhorst and five other people were killed in a July 1978 plane crash. His legacy also lives on through the annual Olivia Corn Capital Days happening in July.
World’s Largest Pistachio
WHERE: PistachioLand: McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch – Arena Blanca Winery, Alamogordo, New Mexico
Run by the McGinn family, this 111-acre complex in Southern New Mexico not only has a pistachio tree farm and vineyard, but it’s also graced with a 30-foot-tall pistachio. It was built in 2008 in honor of Thomas McGinn, the farm’s founder. His son, Timothy McGinn, had this really big nut constructed as a simple way to honor his father. Comprised of steel and concrete, this cashew gets a lot of attention from highway drivers and they have daily motorized farm tours onsite, taking visitors around the orchards and vineyards. At their country store, find pistachios in burlap gift bags or in shells or as kernels.
World’s Largest Pancake Griddle
WHERE: Birkett Mills, Penn Yan, New York
Based in New York State’s Finger Lakes region, the village of Penn Yan once held a claim to fame as the cooking site of the world’s largest pancake in September of 1987. During that year, at its Buckwheat Festival, the buckwheat flour manufacturer/festival organizers Birkett Mills oversaw the flipping of a record-breaking 28-foot, 4,050-pound flapjack covered on an open fire. This massive meal was also reported to be covered with 60 pounds of butter and 15 gallons of syrup. Sadly, this Guinness Book World Record has gone cold since been claimed by another pancake creation, happening in 1994 in Manchester, England, and the Buckwheat Festival had its last feast in 1999. However, visitors to Penn Yan can see a visual reminder of the 27-foot steel pancake griddle that cooked this breakfast behemoth over three decades ago based along Birkett Mills’ exterior wall.
World’s Largest Corndog
WHERE: The Original Pronto Pup, Rockaway Beach, Oregon
Fans of this cornmeal coated sausage on a stick can trek to the destination created as the birthplace of this deep-fried treat. In the 1930s, George and Versa Boyington ran a hotdog stand on Rockaway Beach and kept seeing their hotdog buns get very soggy from coastal rain. So, the married couple decided to combat this weather-related issue with a doughy alternative – a pancake-based batter containing cornmeal that gets applied to the hotdogs instead of placing them in a roll. They named their creation “Pronto Pup.” The Boyingtons would then give their “Pronto Pup” an even bigger debut by selling it from the window of their fountain shop in Portland, Oregon. Public awareness about the Pup also grew through being handed out at the 1941 Pacific International Livestock Exposition; it’s said that over 15,000 were eaten at the event. Nowadays, The Pronto Pup, a seasonally-opened restaurant in Rockaway Beach, slings out this label’s stick impaled snacks, with a 30-foot fiberglass corn dog replica adorning the roof.
World’s Largest Big Mac
WHERE: Big Mac Museum Restaurant, North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
Wondering why a McDonald’s flagship menu item has its own museum right outside of downtown Pittsburgh? The answer: It’s because this well-known double-decker hamburger was introduced to the public at a McDonald’s franchise in the Greater Pittsburgh area in 1967 before being served at other McDonald’s nationwide a year later. This franchise was owned and operated by Jim “MJ” Delligatti who also has been acknowledged as the inventor of this culinary piece of pop culture.
This Western Pennsylvania McDonald’s franchise is still in operation, with a partial conversion into a museum in 2007. There, it holds a 14-by-12- foot Big Mac sculpture along with fast food memorabilia and a children’s PlayPlace.
World’s Largest Sweet Tea
WHERE: Summerville Town Hall, Summerville, South Carolina
The central figure in Summerville’s status of having the World’s Largest Sweet Tea is “Mason,” a beloved mason jar standing over 15-feet tall. In June 2016, Mason earned serious cred from the Guinness Book of World Records in achieving this record by holding up to 2,524 gallons of this sugary beverage. Of course, the tea itself had its part in making this record possible; the 210-pound amount came from Charleston Tea Plantation, which is based in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Then, 1,700 pounds of sugar was provided by Dixie Crystals. The idea for setting this record came about due to Summerville being the first acknowledged location for cultivating tea in the United States–the practice dates to the 1770s when tea plants were brought to America by a French botanist and an 1890 receipt for an old soldiers’ reunion includes iced tea and sugar–and Summerville officials wanted to celebrate National Iced Tea Day, which falls on June 10.
World’s Largest Pecan Sculpture
WHERE: Various locations, Seguin, Texas
Pecans are a major industry in Texas, so much that crops can reach up to three million pounds in Guadalupe County. Erected in 1962, the original World’s Largest Pecan sits in front of the Guadalupe County Courthouse, to honor this county’s major Texas pecan producing status. However, in the eighties, the Seguin statue became shell-shocked when a larger version was built at a pecan farm in Brunswick, Missouri. Nonetheless, Seguin would reclaim their title in July 2011 with the construction of a new fiberglass pecan, measuring 16 X 8 feet and located at the Big Red Barn at the Texas Agricultural Education & Heritage Center. Then there are two other pecans of this kind in Seguin at the Pape Pecan House has a 10-foot-long metal pecan on wheels and then a styrofoam replica of original one within the Visitor Center.
World’s Largest Apple
WHERE: Kimberly’s, Winchester, Virginia
Winchester is touted as an “Apple Capital” due to its vast producing orchards within rural areas outside of this metropolitan area. Every spring, it welcomes with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which started as a parade in 1925 and has blossomed from being a one-day happening to a full nine days of festivities. And apparently, the inaugural event introduced another longstanding fixture: a large stationary apple. Built in mind for that first-ever parade as part of an Elks Club float, the well-received paper-mâché apple began to rot due to the elements but would be replaced with a concrete version two years later. This tougher apple still stands today permanently out in front of an antebellum mansion that now is the location for an upscale boutique store.
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