Tag: highway giants

Almost one year ago, the icon of the State Fair of Texas caught fire and disappeared in a plume of black smoke. But, today, Big Tex is back and bigger than ever.

Fair officials had planned to reveal the redesigned cowboy colossus on Friday with the opening of this year's fair, but high winds forced them to drop the big curtain a day early.

Big Tex has been redesigned numerous times since he first appeared at the fair in 1952, and as the previous version was totaled in the 2012 disaster, officials took the opportunity to give him yet another makeover.

He has a new face and a new posture, and at 55 feet tall, he's a full 3 feet taller than before. He's also free-standing now, eliminating the need for guy wires.

Plus, he'll have a new voice after the fair let the previous vocal artist go, many say unfairly, soon after Big Tex's immolation last year. Bill Bragg had provided Tex's voice since 2002. Officials say the new man behind the voice will remain a secret.

Perhaps most important, though, Big Tex now has a fire-suppression system.

No one has yet claimed ownership of a giant head found last week floating in the Hudson River, but with the help of my friends at Weird N.J., we may have scooped the major news outlets on its possible origin.

If you aren't familiar with the story, a rowing crew from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, found the 7-foot-tall, foam and fiberglass head damaged and adrift on April 22.

The team's coach considered the enormous, Greek-style noodle a water hazard and enlisted 10 students to haul it to shore. It's since become a school attraction.

Oddly, no one has seemed interested in retrieving the head. ... Continued

Fairgoers at the State Fair of Texas this morning witnessed a shocking scene as the famous 52-foot-tall icon known as Big Tex was engulfed in fire.

Big Tex greets visitors every fall, when he's erected in Dallas's Fair Park for the annual three-week-long fair. He can be heard throughout the day, making announcements in his signature booming voice.

Fox 4 News reports that the fire apparently began around the head, which is animated when he speaks, leading some to believe that the fire was electrical in nature. Only Tex's arms and metal frame remain.

Having joined the fair in 1952, this year marked Big Tex's 60th anniversary.

Reader Don Hulen recently sent me an e-mail letting me know he and his partners have just established a brand-new roadside attraction in the World's Largest Toolbox.

Located in La Porte, Texas, just southeast of Houston, the newly remodeled building dates back to the 1950s when it served as a local watering hole. Today, it's a hardware store, which has just been made over with scale latches and handles. In addition, Don says there are plans for a giant handle on the roof.

La Porte Tool Box held its grand opening on November 11. It's located at 111 S. Eighth Street.

The queen of the "World's Largest Things," Ericka Nelson, appeared on Conan last night sharing some of her favorite roadside attractions and her diminutive replicas of such.

If you aren't familiar with Ericka, she's the curator of The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things, a traveling exhibit of, well, exactly what it sounds like. She visits the nation's biggest roadside attractions, creates tiny versions of each and puts them on display in her well-traveled Winnebago.

If you missed her appearance on TBS last night, you can catch it below: ... Continued

Lo, it is a solemn day for lovers of religious-themed roadside attractions, for today one of the most recognizable of our nation's giant Jesuses is now nothing but a charred metal frame.

The 62-foot-tall "King of Kings" statue that once rose from the pond outside Monroe, Ohio's Solid Rock Church was struck by lightning last night and set ablaze. The figure, which many detourists lovingly nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus" or "Drowning Jesus," had little chance of survival due to its highly flammable plastic-foam and fiberglass construction. (Video below.)

Motorists are already feeling the loss. So many gawkers were stopping along Interstate 75 this afternoon that highway patrolmen were forced to begin issuing citations just to keep traffic moving. Reports indicate that some visitors were scooping chunks of molten Jesus from the pond as souvenirs.

Yet, the church has already announced plans to rebuild the iconic statue. "It will be back," said co-pastor Darlene Bishop, "but this time we are going to try for something fireproof." ... Continued

In Weird Arizona, I wrote about the sad demise of Twin Arrows Trading Post, a long-lived roadside establishment east of Flagstaff known for its iconic pair of giant projectiles. When I last photographed the site in September 2005, both arrows' points were gone and only one flaking fletching remained. It looked as though the Twin Arrows would disappear forever.

Yet, when I passed them today on an excursion between book signings, I was hit with the unexpected. I assumed that, by this point, nothing would remain but two leaning utility poles. Still, I felt compelled to stop by on my way east. My jaw dropped at the sight of their Lazarus-like resurrection.

There they were, completely rebuilt and shining with a fresh coat of brightly colored paint. It was a miracle! The trading post and its connected Valentine diner were still in disrepair, but the famous arrows had been restored as I had hoped for years they would be. ... Continued

The biggest catsup bottle in the world, located in Collinsville, Illinois, is currently enjoying a refinish in anticipation of its 60th anniversary.

The 70-foot-tall bottle was erected in 1949 above the Brooks bottling factory and served as the company's water supply. When the plant shut down, locals organized a preservation group to make sure the bottle was protected and cared for. In 2002, the landmark was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places.

Reinneck Industrial Coating, the firm working on the new paint job, says it should be ready in time for the 11th Annual Brooks World's Largest Catsup Bottle Festival Birthday Party and Car Show on July 12th.

When complete, the latest renovation will have consumed about 80 gallons of paint in four different colors: blue, white and two kinds of red.

Some of my favorite roadside attractions consist of everyday objects exploded to surreal proportions. This is why I took notice of artist Damien Hirst's Hymn, which, although it was created in 1996, seems to be making the blog rounds as of late.

It's a 20-foot, 6-ton, bronze replica of the classic Young Scientist Anatomy Set, a.k.a. "Anatomy Man." It sold for £1 million (a little over $1.57 million).

In 2000, Hirst was sued for copyright infringement by the toy's manufacturer, who sells 10,000 of the models each year. They settled for "goodwill payments" to two children's charities.

Three other copies of Hymn were reportedly created, but I'm having trouble locating where any of them are currently on display. Anyone know?

See video

As the Roadside Resort reported a few days ago, a gigantic piñata was constructed in downtown Philadelphia as part of an ad campaign organized by Carnival Cruise Lines. The 62-foot-tall burro, the centerpiece of a TV commercial being filmed for Carnival, was reportedly to be busted open with a wrecking ball, but the event was postponed due to a "technical difficulty."

According to new reports coming in, said difficulty was an objection by Philadelphia police who had fears, not of the danger of a wrecking ball swinging over a giant crowd of people, but of how that crowd of people would behave when the 4 tons of candy came flying out.

Philadelphia's National Public Radio affiliate WHYY reports that those who had gathered to witness the event became irate and started yelling obscenities at the extras hired to be in the commercial. Because the extras were dressed in business suits, the hysterical crowd mistakenly assumed they had something to do with organizing the event. ... Continued