Have You Ever Seen The World's Largest Ball of Twine?
A close-up of the world's largest ball of twine:
I am not joking...
On our way to Manhattan, Kansas, back from Hays, we rerouted to Nicodemus, which was the first all-black town created in 1877 during the “black exodus”. We had decided to take Highway 24 to try some new scenery. I was just telling my mom that even though I have lived in Kansas for 20 years (this time), I had always wanted to see the “Biggest Ball of Twine in the World.” I did not know exactly where it was, but I knew it was in Kansas. My mom was laughing at me because 1) who really wants to see that when there are so many other great things out there to see? and 2) she knows I have a love for the most cheesy tourist attractions – to me, they show the depths of humanity and history – I love it.
Anyway, within five minutes of the above conversation, we run into Cawker, Kansas. No, I had never heard of that town before. All of a sudden, before my very eyes, was the biggest ball of twine I had ever seen! I looked in the rear view mirror for traffic, and made a sharp turn into the parallel parking – there were no cars parked there, it was Sunday afternoon. Little things excite me and I grabbed my camera and ran to take pictures of this great oddity. I have attached those pictures for you so you too can enjoy the best ball twine thingy ever. Well, the largest teepee in the world located in Arizona is pretty cool too – but it is concrete. Sigh.
Some history of the world’s largest ball of twine: A farmer, Frank Stoeber, began the ball in 1953. It was typical for farmers to store their twine in this manner, just like balls of yarn for knitters. He used sisal twine, which can either refer to the plant or fiber. Sisal hemp is the common name, but that is a misnomer which came about because hemp was a major source for fiber and other fiberous materials were named after it.
Within four years, Farmer Stoeber had wrapped so much twine that it weighed 5,000 pounds and was 8 feet high. For fun, in 1961, Stoeber presented the ball of twine to Cawker City, Kansas. Stoeber died in 1971. The town has since built a whole tourist industry around the twine. This is a good thing because there is not much else in Cawker City! Many businesses on Main Street are the homes to famous paintings depicting the ball of twine and there is a twine stripe on the sidewalk leading the way to the ball, just in case you cannot see it. Wink.
August is typically the hottest month of the year for Kansas. In spite of this, every August Cawker City has its twine-a-thon where additional twine is added to the ball by locals and visitors. You too can go visit and be part of this historical event. There are other events which add to the attraction such as car shows and horseshoe pitching. Standing in front of that ball of twine, it reminded me of my own German heritage and maypoles.
There are other times of the year that you can add your twine to the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. I sure wish I had known this, but then, I was so unprepared when we found this wonderful treat. You can call 785-781-4470 or 785-781-4713 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information. I have heard that when the souvenir shop across the street from the ball is open, they will give you a piece of twine to add to the ball! These people in Cawker City are really nice people, and will add your length to the official records. Please do not keep the little piece of twine as a souvenir– that will mess up the total. Besides, these shops could really use your money purchasing little souvenir trinkets because Western Kansas is one of the most hard-hit in our current economic depression. In spite of this, prices for items in Cawker shops are inexpensive.
In 2006, it was estimated that the ball weighed almost 9 tons, had a circumference of 40 feet, and contained 1,475 miles of twine. For more history and pictures of the famous paintings, you can go to this website: http://windowontheprairie.com/tag/frank-stoeber/
I know that Western Kansas is hot and windy and only gets worse in August, but I cannot wait to go back and have fun at this festival. It is reasonably cheap-to-free entertainment. Plus it just amazes me that anyone would just keep winding twine, twine he could have probably used on his farm. But you will see in my pictures the motto of perseverance and patience that runs through the ancestral blood of our Kansas veins. As a final note, while we were parked, another car having one man inside, did a quick pullover to look at the ball. He did not get out of his car or take pictures, but he too was amazed at his finding. Mom joked that there was probably concrete underneath the World’s largest ball of twine, but I just will absolutely never believe it! – Karre.