We stumbled upon a land for giants in the cornfields of Illinois. We went in blind, as usual. I found a couple “World’s Largest” entries on Roadside America that happened to be in the same town. “Great! We can see two big things in one stop. How convenient!” What I didn’t realize was that this town had not one, not two, but eight “world’s largest” attractions. This quote from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article perfectly sums up our experience-
“What they are finding here is unbelievable,” he says. “They are totally impressed. They think they are here for a 20-minute stop for a windchime, then they’re still here two hours later.” -David Liebenow
Because I didn’t realize all that was available in Casey, Illinois before we arrived, we missed out on capturing the total experience. What we did see, though, was quite remarkable and I’m definitely keeping Casey on my list for a return trip.
Here’s the story of Big Things in a Small Town…
As I often do, I research the places I’ve been after I’ve been there. (I have no idea why I do it this way.) I found the website for the town and read several news articles. I love what I discovered about the backstory of how all these Big Things came to be and why.
Jim Bolin is a life-long resident of Casey, Illinois. His original idea was to create something that would bring attention to the town and breathe life back into his hometown that was suffering the decline faced by many small towns in America. Several Casey businesses had closed or moved and Jim wanted to do something to help strengthen and benefit his community.
Jim’s first project was to build the giant windchimes. After two years of planning and construction, the pipes were placed in December 2011. After the windchimes came the golf tee. And the ideas just kept coming. Jim’s company, Bolin Enterprises, already had a paint shop, a weld shop, and access to talented craftspeople. The materials used in crafting these larger-than-life sculptures are primarily recycled and repurposed materials. (Yay recycling!) Bolin Enterprises owns most of the property where the items are displayed and maintains attractive landscaping around them all.
The Bolins have opened a Big Things in a Small Town Workshop where visitors can watch the next big things being made. Eventually, creation of Big Things will slow and the workshop will be used to teach children and people with disabilities skills that can be used in maintaining the Big Things or in other related fields.
“The stuff is cool,” he says. “But the thing is really the people, the visitors in town. That’s what makes my heart happy about what is going on.”
It’s an admirable story of using what you have to make the world around you a little better.
There are rules!
Most people probably don’t know this (I, for one, did not!) but there are a few rules set by the Guinness Book of World Records when considering items in the “World’s Largest” category. According to the Guinness website, the general criteria for a world record are:
- Based on a single variable
- The best in the world
To be considered for a world record, you must submit an application in advance. If approved, a set of guidelines for requirements and evidence will be sent to you.
Specific rules mentioned for a couple of the items in Casey…
*If an item is the first of its kind it has to be 10 times bigger than the average usual size. The pitchfork was the first pitchfork to gain world’s largest status.
*The items have to be functional. The knit shop owner actually used her needles in a demo. Would love to see that! (But look – through the magic of technology we can see it! Click here for the YouTube video of the final stitches or watch below.)
Let’s look around
We started in downtown Casey, Illinois at the rocking chair and the windchimes. Remember – we didn’t know all that Casey had to offer before we arrived and we thought this was all we were going to see here.
After our Kodak moments here we decided to drive out to the golf course and the farm to see the tee and pitchfork.
The pitchfork is outside the Richard Farm restaurant. It looked good but we had already planned to stop at Culvers, one of our roadtrip traditions, and we had Rocco with us so we kept going. We decided to drive back through town again to see the other big things before we headed out.
A few tips
Here are a few things we learned about Casey that can help make your visit even better.
I was a little surprised not to find printed maps available in town. Now that I’ve learned more about how it all works, I’m sure it would be too expensive for the town or the Bolin family to provide maps. If you go to the town’s website you can download or print a map to bring with you. Also, I’m sure if you ask for directions, anyone in town would be willing to help. They all seem very friendly. The map is the key to seeing everything. There were several big things in town that we didn’t even know to look for. We also couldn’t find the knitting needles but that’s because we didn’t realize they were inside a store rather than on display outside like most of the other things.
It is a small town so there aren’t a lot of options but there are a few small restaurants in town plus the Richards Farm restaurant next to the pitchfork. There are also a few fast food places over by the interstate.
If you’re looking for something sweet, be sure to check out the candy store that hosts the world’s largest wooden shoes. The Big Dipper ice cream shop is also nearby.
It’s easy to see most of the in-town attractions by foot. The farther out ones require a drive. A trolley runs on most Saturdays in the summer, going from big thing to big thing.
About 500 people come through the workshop daily in the summer, with up to 100 in the winter. We visited on a Tuesday in June at about lunchtime. It was a little busy in town but we were able to find street parking with no problem. It was hot and we had the dog with us and I was hungry (or perhaps hangry would be a better description!) so I was feeling a little impatient but as my family knows, I’d prefer to always be the only person around so even a few others will make things seem crowded.
This place is great! I love the story behind it and I will absolutely stop again if I’m passing by. Next time I’ll bring my map so I don’t miss anything and I’ll plan for a longer stop. Oh and here’s a timelapse video of the rocking chair being assembled, just for fun…
Tell your friends!