September 18 2008 by Claudia Kunkel
I grew up in the Midwest, Iowa to be specific. You don't grow up in the Midwest without visiting every small town community in every neighboring state. It's the "neighborly" thing to do after all. We Midwesterners also know our own state and the surrounding states history pretty well - it's all part of our well-rounded history lessons in school. That brings me to Minnesota, the "land of 10,000 lakes" (who counted?) Local folk lore has it that a larger-than-life lumberjack named Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, created all those lake beds years ago. However, Minnesota's official motto is "Star of the North", which describes the state's latitude and its veritable constellation of stars.
Minnesota has it all - from water-related activities to the famous Mall of America in Bloomington. Minnesota also has some lesser known offbeat places, depending on how you describe "offbeat". There's the Grasshopper Assumption Chapel in Cold Springs, the Smiley Face Water Tower in Waite Park and the Two-story Outhouse in Belle-Plaine. However, my personal favorite would have to be the World's Largest Twine Ball in the town of Darwin.
It is important to note there is some controversy on this point. Cawker, Kansas also lays claim to the largest ball of twine moniker. For my purposes, I choose to stay out of the fray and will leave official status to twine ball experts. Darwin's unusual roadside attraction weighs 17,400 pounds and is twelve feet in diameter. A man by the name of Francis A. Johnson started wrapping twine in 1950 for four hours a day and lifted it with a crane to make sure he could wrap it properly. After he died, the ball was moved from his farm into the city park in Darwin and is housed in a Plexiglas gazebo. The town of Darwin hosts a "Twine Ball Days" festival on the second Saturday of August.
If you are ever in the area and have itch to see it, there are a few Best Western hotels close by. The fascination with the Largest Ball of Twine is also one of the highlights on a road trip in the movie "Michael" - surely a good reason to put this offbeat attraction on your "bucket list".
Do you know of other off beat attractions? Let us know.