My wife and I are on a mission to visit all the oversized local landmarks throughout Minnesota. This blog chronicles those visits and covers other related topics.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Giant Hobo

September 22, 2009 - Starbuck, MN

Giant Hobo

Ok, it's time to get back to this blog thinger and finally get caught up. We got very busy buying a house and moving into that house and settling into that house and because of that and other fun grown-up stuff like figuring out insurance policies and retirement accounts, I haven't had much time to post. Like I mentioned in the last post, we now live in Plymouth, MN.

Way back in September we went on a western Minnesota big stuff loop. The first stop on this loop was in Starbuck. We didn't waste our time stopping for the buck with a star in it's antlers (I'm not kidding) or the site marking where the world's largest lefse was made. The lefse isn't there, because they ate it back in 1983, but the rolling pin they used is.

The giant hobo stands in Hobo Park. In the 1930s during the Great Depression many men would ride the freight trains and stop in Starbuck for a few days or weeks looking for work or food from the locals. At night they would gather near this spot along Lake Minnewaska. Before long they would hop on another freight train and move on, like any respectable hobo would. They left behind shorthand signs informing other hobos where they could find work or food or other helpful information.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big Fish Update

I just received an update from the Fans of the Big Fish Facebook page that the Big Fish Supper Club is reopening this Friday, November 6th. It will be open 7 days a week from 3 pm to 10 pm. So if you're near Bena, MN then you should stop in.

Just to give everyone an update on the blog... I have been super, super busy lately and have had no time to post. We do have more stuff to post. I think we have 4 more big stuffs that are in the "queue" so to speak. Also, The Big Stuff Project will be moving it's base of operations from Bloomington to Plymouth this month.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Chef

August 16, 2009 - Mankato, MN

Happy Chef

The Happy Chef restaurant in Mankato was the very first Happy Chef. It opened in 1963. At one point the Happy Chef chain grew to 56 restaurants in the Midwest. Today only 16 restaurants remain.

The giant Happy Chef statue was, and still is, an icon for the restaurants. Most of the restaurants had one. But, as I chronicled before, these statues are disappearing. The Mankato restaurant is the only one that still has a statue. Restaurant owners were instructed to destroy the statues rather than sell them, but some managed to survive. Regardless, the Happy Chef statue in any form is a rare commodity.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Jolly Green Giant & Sprout

August 16, 2009 - Blue Earth, MN

Jolly Green Giant

The Jolly Green Giant first appeared in the 1920's as an advertising mascot for the Blue Earth Canning Company. In 1929 the Blue Earth Canning Company became part of Minnesota Valley Canning Company in Le Sueur, MN. In 1950 they changed their name to Green Giant and merged with Pillsbury in 1979. Pillsbury was ultimately acquired by General Mills, who still owns the brand. It seems that at some point possibly six canneries were sold to Seneca Foods.

The Jolly Green Giant statue, which cost the town $43,000, was erected in 1978 in time to overlook the completion of Interstate 90 connecting Boston to Seattle. He was temporarily erected in September 1978 at a roadside rest area north of I-90 where he could watch as the interstate was completed. Miss America was there too. He was permanently put into place a mile south of the interstate on July 6, 1979. This is where he still is today.

The statue is 55 feet tall, weighs 4 tons, has a 4 foot smile and size 78 elfin slippers, and is conveniently located next to a Dairy Queen. On this day he appears ready to run in the Relay For Life... assuming he can somehow free his feet from his platform.

The idea for the statue was that of Paul Hedberg, the owner of a local radio station. He got the idea after interviewing numerous travelers for a radio program where many of them expressed an interest in seeing the Green Giant. In 1977 he contacted the Green Giant Company and with their consent and input on the design was able to have the statue built.


Outside a gas station just off of I-90 and close to the Green Giant stands this statue of Little Green Sprout. Sprout appeared in Green Giant ads beginning in 1973. This Sprout was formerly an A&W Papa Burger, which explains the root beer in his hand. I guess they decided to replace the burger with a pizza box.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Big Buffalo

August 16, 2009 - Luverne, MN

Giant Buffalo

On our way out of Luverne after our super awesome camping trip we stopped at this sizable buffalo statue. It is located just a couple blocks north of the interstate. The buffalo is a little bit larger than a real buffalo and it says "Those Blasted Things" next to it. If you look closely at the picture you will see that Those Blasted Things is the name of the store behind the buffalo. It also says Minnesota Rocks & Gifts below it... so it's some sort of gift shop. That's all I really know about it.

If you pay attention while in Luverne, you will notice that the buffalo seems to be a bit of a theme. The area around Luverne is prairie and the type of place you would expect to see lots of buffalo... if we hadn't nearly killed all of them. Woops. Oddly, the school mascot is the cardinal.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

World's Largest Peace Pipe

August 15, 2009 - Pipestone, MN

World's Largest Peace Pipe

Pipestone... the bane of our Big Stuff existence. You see, we were in Pipestone once before. We went there for a friend's wedding in July 2003. It was about 98 degrees that day and the church lacked air conditioning and it was the full-on Catholic mass wedding ceremony. The country club did have air conditioning, though, and cheap drinks that were also very strong. All-in-all it was a fun day.

The problem was that in 2003 there was no Big Stuff Project. It was only a couple years later that my wife came up with the idea. Why is that such a big deal, you may ask yourself. Well, if you've ever been to Pipestone you know that the city of Pipestone is, in fact, not near anything at all. This is something that is easily illustrated by looking at the Big Stuff map (although I will be adding a point in Luverne, which is 24 miles from Pipestone). We really had no reason at all to go to Pipestone again and we liked it that way. But then there was the peace pipe. We had no idea when or how we were going to get that stupid peace pipe.

That's when the Big Stuff gods kinda, sort of, maybe slightly but not really smiled upon us. My youngest brother got a job in southern Minnesota and ended up moving into an apartment in Luverne. This was great. There is a state park just north of Luverne, so we thought we would pick a weekend where we could go camping and visit my brother. And this is what we did... and it turned out to be a very interesting camping trip.

We left from the Twin Cities Friday (8/14) after work. Due to our late departure and some road construction, we didn't get to the park until about 10:15 that night. We then set up our large tent, just the two of us, in the dark with two lanterns for light. We did a pretty good job. The most interesting thing was trying to partially inflate our air mattresses inside our Nissan Sentra so we wouldn't bother other people as much with our noisy electric pump. As we were getting close to being finally settled in, the people who reserved the site behind us showed up to set up their camp. It was after 11pm by then.

The next morning we woke up and it was raining. This put a damper on our plans for the morning. We sat in the tent and played some cards for a little while and then decided to try to make breakfast. It was still a little rainy and drizzly, but we managed to make eggs, pancakes, and heated up pre-cooked bacon on our camp stove.

Us 1
Nature 0

We then prepared to go hiking like we had planned, albeit later than we had hoped. It was still drizzling a little bit as we started, but that soon stopped. The air was humid but the clouds kept the sun from making it very steamy, which would have sucked, and there was a nice breeze. The weather was actually pretty nice for hiking. The rain did make certain spots on the trails kind of slick, but we weren't about to let nature ruin our enjoyment of nature..... stupid nature. The park was pretty neat (some of my pictures) and the campground was rather nice too.

Us 2
Nature 0

After hiking we ate some lunch and headed to Pipestone for the World's Largest Peace Pipe. On the way there it looked like the weather might just clear up a bit... until we got to Pipestone... where it was raining. We found the pipe and the rain let up a little bit so we snapped a few pictures and, with little to absolutely no fanfare, left Pipestone. We probably weren't really going to enjoy Pipestone anyway, so I think that's another point for us.

Us 3
Nature 0

Next we went and picked up my brother and went back to the campground. We got a fire going and made some pizza pocket sandwich things and apple pies with our pie/sandwich irons and later had some smores. During the evening we were watching the clouds. It looked like some storms were coming so we readied the campsite for a quick getaway if a sudden downpour came. There was some pretty good lightning, but that storm ended up moving north of us. The weather settled down and we had a nice night. Then at about 11:30 we brought my brother back to his apartment and we checked the radar. Wouldn't you know it, a big line of thunderstorms was headed our way. We had a decision to make. Our options were to a) go back and sleep in the tent and hope for the best, b) stay at my brother's apartment and crash there, or c) go back to the campground, tear down, and sleep on my brother's floor. We chose c, since we wanted to keep the inside of our tent dry as well as our sleeping bags, pillows, and mattresses. So now it's midnight and we do a quick tear down of the tent and leave the campground. We then enjoyed some microwaved smores before going to bed. I think nature won that round.

Us 3
Nature 1

We hold on to the lead and claim victory. Take that, nature!

About the Peace Pipe

The peace pipe, or calumet, is 30 feet long and stands outside the old Rock Island Depot near the entrance to the Pipestone National Monument. Native Americans used pipestone to make ceremonial or sacred pipes. Pipestone, or catlinite, is the second softest rock in the world and Native Americans were able to carve it for use as peace pipes. The Pipestone National Monument contains a large quarry of catlinite that is still in use today. Enrolled Native Americans are allowed to extract rock from the quarry and only use hand tools to do it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wienermobile Crashes Into House

The driver of one of the six Wienermobiles crashed into a house in Racine, WI Friday morning. She was apparently trying to turn around in the driveway and thought she had it in reverse when it was still in drive. Nobody was home at the time.

Read the entire story here.

I'm not sure how you can crash that far into a garage when you are trying to back up. How fast do you need to go? She must have really put some mustard on that. I bet she just got grilled by her boss. That's a call I wouldn't relish.

For the record, we saw the Wienermobile earlier this month stuck in traffic on Highway 10 near Hawley, MN.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Big Stuff, Small Children

I recently went through some of my parents' old photo albums. One in particular was just of family vacations we took. It seems that Big Stuff is just in my blood. I pulled out a handful of photos and scanned them.

Babe the Blue Ox

Paul Bunyan

These first two are of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN circa 1984 or 1985 I believe. I'm the really little guy in the Babe photo surrounded by siblings and cousins.


This is me on the Jackalope at Wall Drug in Wall, SD in 1988.



These next two photos are from the same South Dakota trip in 1988. These are from Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD. I'm the guy in the Vikings shirt (front and center with the Brontosaurus and in the back with the Stegosaurus). Those other people are my siblings... except for that guy in the hat with his back to us in the first picture, I don't know him.

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rockmore

Same trip. My siblings and I in front of Mt. Rushmore and Mt. Rockmore, respectively (I know. I mix them up too.). The first pic also has two random women and the second pic has my dad. I'm the guy in the blue shirt.


Iggy the Iguana

I'm not sure what year these last two are from. I'm guessing around 1989 or 1990. The first is in front of the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (I'm in the middle with the white Valleyfair shirt.) and the second photo is Iggy the Iguana (I'm in the front.) at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The Science Museum has moved since then.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Giant Bronze Bulls

May 31, 2009 - St. Paul, MN

3 Giant Metal Bulls

On the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota you will find these three giant bronze bulls. They are the creation of sculptor Peter Woytuk and sit across the street from Haecker Hall. They were put into place in 2001.

The bulls are rather large. The tallest one is approximately 7 or 8 feet tall and I would guess they are all about 12 feet long. The bulls are also a lot of fun to climb on. I mean... uhhh... that's what I've been told... not that we would climb all over them and take a bunch of pictures of us doing that and have them saved on my computer. We wouldn't do that.

Low Bull

Middle Bull

High Bull

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Giant Molecules and a Tin Man

May 31, 2009 - Minneapolis, MN

Giant Molecular Structure

We both had been itching to get out and see some more Big Stuff and this Sunday turned out to be a great day for it. We headed out to the University of Minnesota to find our latest additions to our collection.

The East Bank of the Minneapolis campus has two such Big Stuff sculptures. The first is a new addition to the university. Located on Washington Avenue in front of the Molecular & Cellular Biology building is a 30 foot tall, 10,000 pound molecule sculpture. It was created by artist Amy Toscani and installed in the fall of 2008. It's not a real molecule, but rather an artistic one based on science. There's some more info and quotes from the artist here.

Platonic Figure

The other sculpture is a large tin man looking thing by the Mechanical Engineering building and is only a couple hundred yards north of the molecules. It is apparently called Platonic Figure and was made in 2001 by Andrew Leicester. It's made out of steel with limestone bases. You can send it as an E-postcard!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bena's Big Fish Endangered

Photo by jenniferrt66.

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota added Bena's Big Fish, along with 9 other places, to its list of Most Endangered Historic Places last week. The fish was built in 1958 as a stand selling hamburgers and ice cream. Now it is used as a storage shed for the Big Fish Supper Club. The fish is endangered due to its deteriorating condition.


The Big Fish has received some national attention. Charles Kuralt once called it his favorite building in America. It has even made it to the big screen.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Award Winning Photography

Award Winning Photography
Names have been blurred to protect the innocent.

My wife recently received an award from an organization she is involved with at school. Pretty good, huh? They actually give silly awards to all of the graduating 4th year students.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

World Record Largest Rocking Chair

I received an email yesterday morning that contained a photo and press release. The press release was about The Guiness Book of World Records official designation that the rocking chair near Cuba, MO along Route 66 is indeed the World's Largest. This chair is 42' 1" tall, 20' 3" wide, and estimated to weigh about 27,500 pounds. In order to be the world's largest rocking chair, Guiness did require that the chair actually rock, so the welds that held the chair in place were cut and they got that chair a rockin'. It was then re-welded into place.

The chair was built by Dan and Carolyn Sanazaro and placed next to The Fanning Outpost General Store in an effort to draw customers to their complex of businesses. It was designed by artist and friend John Bland and fabricated by welder and friend Joe Medwick. It was lifted into place on April 1, 2008.

For more info, read the press release.

Thanks to Jane for the tip.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Popcorn Capital Reclaims Popcorn Ball Record

The town of Sac City, Iowa has set the record for the world's largest popcorn ball... again. Sac County is the self-proclaimed "Popcorn Capital of the World". Each year it produces approximately 4.8 million pounds of popcorn. And, since you can't hardly be the capital of something without having a giant thing to acknowledge that (see: The Corn Capital), Sac City built the world's largest popcorn ball back in 1995. That original record ball weighed 2,225 pounds. It was later topped by the Iowa Boy Scouts, so Sac City blew up the original ball at the Iowa State Fair and built a new record setter in 2004 weighing 3,100 pounds. In the competitive world of giant popcorn balls, you just knew that wasn't going to last. A popcorn company in Illinois bested Sac City's 2004 effort with a ball weighing just over 3,400 pounds. Well that just made Sac City angry... and you wouldn't like them when they're angry.

On February 28th, Noble Popcorn, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, built a new popcorn ball weighing 5,060 pounds. That's approximately 48% larger. It is 7.5 feet tall and 29 feet around. Later it will be kept in the display barn that the 3,100 pound ball currently is, then, if it doesn't fall apart, the old popcorn ball will go on a tour around the state.

For more:
Des Moines Register, which has video and a photo gallery.
Roadside America

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Big Stuff Postcards

Check out these postcards of Minnesota Big Stuff at They have quite a few of them and they're all pretty cool.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Soundtrack Update

It's time to add some more songs to this thing.

The Giant of Illinois - by Andrew Bird

This song is part of a compilation album released just this week titled Dark Was The Night. The compilation is a benefit for the Red Hot Organization – "an international charity dedicated to raising money and awareness for HIV and AIDS through popular culture." The album was produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National.

You can listen to The Giant of Illinois, plus a couple other songs I like from the album, just because I can, on this customizable (cool) widget.

Uff Dah Minnesota - by Roy Holdren

This is one my mom sent me. It's a silly country parody. I found it online here.

Roy Holdren's website

The soundtrack listing to date:
The playlist so far:
Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota - Weird Al Yankovic
Stevie Nix - The Hold Steady
Mr. Big Stuff - Jean Knight (or Heavy D & the Boyz)
Such Great Heights - The Postal Service
An Ear For Baby - The Thermals
Minneapolis - That Dog
Minnesota - The Push Stars
Minnesota - The Mountain Goats
Say Shh... - Atmosphere
We Got as Far as Minnesota - Kind of Like Spitting
Minnesota Moon - The Big Wu
Minnesota - Northern Light
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi - Radiohead
Big Fish - 3 Minute Hero
Spin The Globe - Reel Big Fish
Please Come Back - Catfish Haven
Fishing For a Dream - Turin Brakes
Big Chair - Travis
Tallest Building in Hell - by Jared Mees & the Grown Children
The World at Large - by Modest Mouse
The Giant of Illinois - by Andrew Bird
Uff Dah Minnesota - by Roy Holdren

Monday, February 16, 2009

International Spotlight: World's Largest Axe

Nackawic, New Brunswick, Canada

Photo by blamstur.

We head back to Canada for another International Spotlight. The town of Nackawic, New Brunswick received the title of Forestry Capital of Canada in 1991. The giant axe was built to honor that and, as the bronze plaque reads, it "symbolizes the importance of the forest industry, past, present and future, to the Town of Nackawic and the Province of New Brunswick."

From what I can gather, it seems to be about 60 feet tall (I've also seen it listed at 49 feet and 66 feet.), is 23 feet wide, and weighs about 7 tons. Also, there may or may not be a time capsule in the axe head.

Town of Nackawic.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Portland's Bunyan Added to National Register of Historic Places

Photo by Rozanne.

Portland, Oregon's famous Paul Bunyan statue has been added to the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a "well-crafted example of roadside architecture." The statue was unveiled in 1959 to celebrated Oregon's 100th birthday as part of the Oregon Centennial Exposition. He stands 31 feet tall. Coincidentally, he will be celebrating his 50th birthday this Valentine's Day.

Portland's Bunyan is not the first Paul Bunyan on the National Register, however. That honor would go to Bemidji, Minnesota's Paul and Babe, which were built in 1937.

Find out more from The Oregonian.
Read the Bemidji Pioneer's response to the "puny" crack.

Thanks to my wife's friend Becky for the scoop.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Assignment: Snowzilla - Anchorage, Alaska


When my sister-in-law went on a post Christmas trip to Anchorage, we asked her if she could take some pictures of Snowzilla. She was kind enough to oblige.

Snowzilla is a creation of Billy Powers and his kids. It made it's original appearance in December of 2005 and measured roughly 16 feet tall. A 16 foot tall snowman requires quite a bit of snow, so they used buckets and sleds to collect snow from their neighbors' yards. Snowzilla was resurrected in 2006, they were unable to do it again in 2007 due to a lack of snow, but they were at it again this winter. This year, however, the city tried to put a stop to that. Tried, but failed.

The city decided that Snowzilla was a public nuisance due to the increased noise and traffic surrounding it and because of safety concerns for onlookers from that traffic and, apparently, the threat of a structually unsound Snowzilla toppling over and crushing small children... I guess. They also claim that not all of Powers' neighbors are so thrilled to have the giant snowman around.

Two weeks before Christmas, while Snowzilla still did not even have a completed torso, the city placed cease-and-desist orders at the base of Snowzilla and at Powers' door. This put a halt to the construction of Snowzilla and left a giant mound of snow.


In some kind of Christmas miracle, Snowzilla reappeared before dawn on December 23rd. Someone rebuilt the snowman, seemingly in the night. This time, he rose to about 25 feet. This year's version is not as shapely and well-proportioned as previous incarnations because of the speed of the build. It delighted the children nonetheless.

For more information or pictures of Snowzilla, just Google it. There will be plenty.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Map! - Missouri

Photo by willsdad

Missouri lays claim to the World's Largest Pecan, Rocking Chair, Fork, Goose, and Ball of String as well as a number of giant pink elephants. My favorite Missouri Big Stuffs are the World's Largest Shuttlecocks, one of which is pictured above. There are four of them that are scattered on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. They were created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, the same people who brought us the Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. See the map.

If your favorite Missouri attraction is missing, please let me know.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Babe's Completed Makeover

1. Babe Before and after

A little while back I posted about renovations being done to Brainerd's Babe the Blue Ox. Recently, Josh Porter of Avalon Studios uploaded a bunch of photos of his work to Flickr. He has a set dedicated to the Babe makeover, which includes the above before and after. It even has a shot from inside Babe. He did some excellent work and this should help keep Babe around for another 50 years... hopefully.

And, just because I didn't post enough links, here's another link.
Slideshow of Babe makeover