Casey, Illinois is quickly becoming a mecca for people who love giant objects. It is a not to be missed stop between St. Louis and Indianapolis. In our case, my husband and I were taking a road trip from St. Louis where we were visiting our daughter to Bloomington, Indiana where our nephew was giving a tuba concert. This town with a growing collection of the world’s largest items is a slight detour off of I-70 and is the brainchild of just one man, Jim Bolin. Like many small towns across the U.S., he saw businesses in Casey closing and people moving away. He got the idea to start building large-scale items to attract tourists.
Bolin grew up in Casey and works for his family’s oil and gas pipeline maintenance company. He had construction and design know-how and access to materials. His first creation was a set of giant wind chimes made from pipes, which went up in 2011 after two years of planning and assembly.
Now I have a pet peeve about people claiming that something is the world’s largest of its kind when the item isn’t actually functional. In that case, it is simply a sculpture. But in Casey, the big things really do work.
The wind chimes have a cord that visitors can pull to get the chimes to start clanging.
You can sit on the perch inside the massive birdcage, but alas, there is no giant bird.
Stairs lead up into the giant mailbox, which has a functioning door and maildrop. I can’t imagine that the postman actually climbs the stairs every day to retrieve the mail, but I suspect someone from the town does and then places the mail in a post office box that is easier for the mailman to reach.
There is also the world’s largest golf tee, which I guess is functional, but is really more like a sculpture. Apparently, the Guinness Book of World Records only requires that some of its world’s largest items be operational. It would have been fun to see a giant golf ball on top of the tee.
The world’s largest knitting needles are located inside the local knitting and gift store. To earn the title, the needles had to be used to knit ten rows with ten stitches each. Given that the needles are almost 14 feet long and weigh 25 pounds each, this was no easy feat. The owner of the store, Jeanette, was the one to do the actual knitting, and we were lucky that she was at the shop when we stopped by. She had that small-town friendliness you hope for and spent some time explaining the process to us. I imagined her sitting in the world’s largest rocking chair, also located in Casey, but no, it was inside a gym. The needles were leaning on a table, and Jeanette moved the yarn around them instead. This made a lot more sense. Here is a video https://youtu.be/J6tXuj4z-Bg so you can check it out for yourself. Sadly, Jeanette informed us that someone in London had recently created even larger knitting needles, so she and Casey no longer hold the record. That is the fleeting nature of world record glory.
We also stopped by to see the world’s largest pitchfork, wooden shoes, and rocking chair. The future world’s largest teeter-totter was under construction. There are more large things to see that don’t hold records like the birdcage. There is a pencil, ruler, spinning top, and the list goes on. Jim Bolin is planning even more items. He is a religious man and has put a related scripture on each object. For instance, the mailbox contains a scripture from Corinthians which says, “You yourselves are our letter, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.” I thought this was pretty clever.
We were in a bit of a hurry, so we didn’t get a chance to eat at the Whitling Whimsy Café, 109 E. Main St, which is next to the wind chimes, but it looked inviting. There’s also an ice cream shop that was closed when we visited. The Dollar$ n$en$e store was open, and the cashier there gave us some of the town’s history. He did say that Bolin’s efforts to bring tourism to the area were paying off. We did see other tourists enjoying the area and did our part for the economy by buying “Big Things Small Town” t-shirts. We can’t wait to swing back by to see the finished teeter-totter and spend a leisurely few hours exploring the town some more. This little town is a big treat.