Roadside Attractions in Southwestern Minnesota
By Amanda Fretheim Gates
My dad loves road trips. When I was six, we took a three-week car trip to California, hitting all the spots (Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Denver, Phoenix, Vegas, Disneyland) along the way. To this day there are many photos of me in front of a number of roadside attractions. It’s just the way he rolls (pun intended), and I look forward to taking my own family on trips of a similar nature some day (and taking those same photos).
The number of kitschy roadside attractions (particularly of the “world’s largest” variety) in Minnesota is pretty ridiculous, but if your travels take you to any of the four corners of our state, you’ll definitely have some great photo opportunities. Here are a few you don’t want to miss if you’re traveling through Mankato, Redwood Falls, Appleton, Pipestone or anywhere in between.
World’s Largest Lutefisk:
Even though I’m a Norwegian Minnesotan, I’ve never had lutefisk (dried cod soaked in lye) and don’t plan on it. But, Madison is known as the Lutefisk Capital, with a 25-foot-long codfish statue (named Lou T. Fisk; get it?) on display to commemorate this fact. The community members claim to eat more lutefisk per capita, and even have a champion in Jerry Osteraas, who’s enjoyed seven pounds of the dish in one sitting. Mmmmm.
World’s Largest Twine Ball (rolled by one man):
Darwin is a small town with a population of less than 400 people. However, this tiny spot houses a twine ball that Francis A. Johnson rolled by hand, first in his basement, then his front yard, for nearly 30 years. Twelve feet in diameter and weighing something like nine tons, the ball is on display, and protected, in a gazebo in the center of town. Stay at the Twine Ball Inn, enjoy Twin Ball Days (in August) or just take a photo of the monstrous ball.
Jolly Green Giant:
If you love your veggies, or even if you don’t, you can’t deny the appeal of the Jolly Green Giant (and his signature "ho-ho-ho" from the old commercials). The Blue Earth community erected the 55-foot-tall statue more than 30 years ago (the company has a plant nearby). In 2009, a Jolly Green Giant museum opened, filled with memorabilia. This attraction even made Time magazine’s 2010 list of 50 Best Roadside Attractions.
Hermann the German monument:
New Ulm is known for beer, polka music, glockenspiels, Oktoberfest, and much more. It’s also home to one of the country’s tallest bronze statues (32 feet), which stands on top of a 100-foot monument. Hermann was a legendary German freedom fighter whose statue symbolizes the effort of mid-19th century German settlers to preserve their culture and heritage in their new home. The monument was erected in 1897.