Why Do People Make Large Things?

Well, there’s ego of course. And because they can. But often it’s either unintentional or romantic–not love-romance, but sentimental-romance.

Take the largest stack of empty oil cans in Cassleton, North Dakota. A gas station just tossed them in a pile starting in the 1930’s and it grew. When the town also grew and it was time for road expansion, folks helped to move the unsightly stack 300 feet. But sadly the current landowners don’t love it as much, and this act-of-litter-turned-attraction is now defunct.

Then there’s the largest Boll Weevil–it’s a statue, not a living being (thankfully). Enterprise, Alabama was devastated when this insect ruined their cotton crop. So they turned to tobacco, which brought great fortune. As a thanks to the bug that sent them in the direction of wealth, the town square has a statue of the creepy crawler. How’s THAT for honoring your past?

How Many Large Things Are There?

Not including functional architecture, there are over 300 in the U.S. The number ebbs and flows as they are torn down or fall apart, and new ones created.

If ever something were considered Americana, I would say paying homage to your local productivity and lore through something enormous would count.

Want to check them out? Hit the road, Jack. Go find that Big Chicken, oversized Charcoal Grill, and the Fiddle in (wait for it) Fiddletown.

Paying Homage to Paying Homage

Artist and all-around intriguing and charming woman, Erika Nelson, became fascinated with the large landmarks as a child. The Figure Eight Ball and Paul Bunyan statue marked proximity to home and her grandparents’ house.

Enamored with these navigation points, she went searching for others, and then wanted a physical tzotchke to commemorate her visit. She wasn’t satisfied with a postcard or whatever plastic crap may be sold. So she made her own absurd miniature–as she says, the “monuments” are already absurd, so why not let her figures be even more so. Go girl!

This desire to see large things and replicate them in miniature lead to the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things. Say it three times fast. Go on, I’ll wait.

Spirit of the Sideshow

A van decked out in olde-timey decor doubles as living quarters and museum, taking Erika across the country. She shares her sideshow with happy customers, visits new sites, and takes pictures of her miniature in context of the original: a meta photo.


The Making of a Miniature

The material changes for the need. Read the WLCoWSVoWLT blog for fun detail on rubber bands and singing cows.

Of the 300 sites across the country, 150 +/- have been visited by Erika and 85 have been miniaturized. Visit the Flickr page for more and better pics of the miniatures–it’s hard to photograph through the glass of the mobile museum.

miniatures of largest things

 Is One Large Thing Better Than Another?

Since “size matters” is an obvious theme throughout this endeavor, what other factors give one large thing more merit than another?

Erika’s favorite large thing is the Largest Penny in Woodruff WI. The angel in snowshoes delivered babies for geographically disparate folks and pleaded for a hospital. The constant refrain: there’s no funding. So she began a campaign to collect a million pennies, garnering attention and support from around the world. The pennies were lined up on the school gym floor, covering it entirely. She went to the powers that be and asked for her hospital, and this time it was granted. When the hospital was built and the requisite parade occurred, every child she had delivered marched in the parade.

And THAT is why people build large things. To say thank you; to show pride; perhaps to toot their horn that they can build an enormous chair. But more often than not it has an inspiring story–it may not start out inspiring (think of the discarded oil cans), but it’ll rally a town. And isn’t that what everything is about: community.


Have you seen one of the largest things?
Did it meet or exceed your expectations?
What did you learn from it?

Disclosure: Thank you to the City of Lucas Kansas Tourism Bureau for facilitating my visit with Erika.

8 Responses


What is the oddest, largest size thing you have seen or read about?

Jef – YOU are the oddest thing I have seen.


I read a book once with a character who was small. He built himself a fancy house, but it was proportionate to him. Had furniture built for him. I guess his small house made him feel bigger. I thought that was a clever sub plot. No one else could really ever live there.

Nancy – that is an awesome sub-plot. love it!


Shucks, no pictures of the oil cans! I think I’ll go over to Amazon and order something that I probably don’t need.

Dick – ask you shall receive. The web is wonderful! Here’s an old pic of the oil cans. http://www.realnd.com/casseltoncanpileindex.htm
And thanks for shopping on amazon – now you know how awesome it is! 🙂


Love this post! Going to share with someone who’s on a mission to create big things! Love reading about your adventures.

Adina – what kind of big things is your friend making? Please have him/her be in touch with two people: Erika from this post so she can know about them and possibly miniaturize. And the family at Go Big or Go Home – they only visit big things: biggest ball of twine or biggest waterpark. http://gobigorgohomeblog.com/

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