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Midwest Marvels

Roadside Attractions across Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin

2006
Author:

Eric Dregni

Midwest Marvels

A tour of quirky must-see sites dotting the highways and byways of the Upper Midwest

Regional travel expert Eric Dregni takes the reader on an off-center tour of the bizarre—and the beautiful—across Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin, from the Corn Palace to the world's tallest structure: a TV tower jutting nearly a half mile into the sky.

Complete with descriptions, driving directions, and photographs, Midwest Marvels is a must-have for everyone from armchair travelers to road warriors.

Out here on the flat lands, there's a secret promotional urge to rise above the ordinary and draw the world's attention by creating the World's Largest Whatever and Mr. Dregni does honor to it. He has written the World's Finest Book that includes enormous fake fish and a talking Paul Bunyan and the largest ball of twine wound by one man. He left out the Giant Numeral One that flashes at night over downtown St. Paul, but that's for Vol. 2.

Garrison Keillor

Only in the Midwest is civic pride measured by the size of a town’s roadside sculpture. Much-loved monuments and larger-than-life replicas add character to their surroundings, intriguing and amusing visitors as they pass through town. Midwest Marvels is not your typical guidebook. Regional travel expert Eric Dregni takes the reader on a slightly off-center tour of the bizarre—and the beautiful—across Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin, and directs road-trippers to the one-of-a-kind oddities that cause drivers to turn off the interstate in awe.

Intricate architecture and historical monuments often reveal the soul of a city, but in Audubon, Iowa, visitors find a thirty-foot, forty-five-ton talking bull erected as a monument to the beef industry. In Minnesota a tourist can view monuments to Paul Bunyan or visit the Spam Museum, and North Dakota boasts a forty-five-foot tower of discarded oil cans, trumped only by the world’s tallest structure: a TV tower jutting nearly a half mile into the sky. Everyone is familiar with South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore and Corn Palace, but less famous is the unique Outhouse Museum. Of course, only in Wisconsin can a couple get married in the mouth of a 145-foot muskie.

Readers will appreciate the countless hours Dregni has spent searching for the biggest, the smallest, the oddest, the most mysterious, and the most outrageous tourist attractions. Complete with detailed descriptions, driving directions, and numerous photographs, Midwest Marvels is a must-have for everyone from armchair travelers to seasoned road warriors planning a trip through the heart of the country.

Midwest Marvels

Born in the shadow of the World’s Largest Six-Pack in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Eric Dregni is a freelance writer for the Rake and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He is the author of several books, including Minnesota Marvels: Roadside Attractions in the Land of Lakes (Minnesota, 2001), The Scooter Bible, Ads That Put America on Wheels, and, most recently, Let’s Go Bowling! He lives in Minneapolis.

Midwest Marvels

Out here on the flat lands, there's a secret promotional urge to rise above the ordinary and draw the world's attention by creating the World's Largest Whatever and Mr. Dregni does honor to it. He has written the World's Finest Book that includes enormous fake fish and a talking Paul Bunyan and the largest ball of twine wound by one man. He left out the Giant Numeral One that flashes at night over downtown St. Paul, but that's for Vol. 2.

Garrison Keillor

Midwest Marvels is a type of entertaining curiosity tour featuring a text which is illustrated with photographs and down home folk tales. It is well worth the price to the traveler unfamiliar with what the five-state Upper Midwest area has to offer the curious passerby.

Midwest Book Review

Midwest Marvels directs road-trippers to the one-of-a-kind oddities that cause drivers to turn off the interstate in awe.

Harvey Herald-Press

If you like road trips, and you’ve always wondered about those odd things you see along the way, you’ll like Midwest Marvels. For anyone who has ever been exasperated by the fuzzy unctuousness of so much travel writing, this newly reissued guidebook will be a breath of fresh air.

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Dregni takes the reader on a slightly off center tour of the bizarre and the beautiful, and directs road-trippers to the one-of-a-kind oddities that cause drivers to turn off the interstate in awe.

La Crosse Tribune

If you’ve ever been lured by the siren song of schlock, you’ll be in tune with Eric Dregni’s adoringly quirky new compendium of heartland camp. Chockfull of tourists’s quotes and anecdotes, this fat slab of a book is a cheerful reminder of how even the most conservative parts of America revel in their queer amusements.

Passport Magazine

A compilation of big, small, mysterious and strange tourist attractions. One of Deadwood’s most famous saloons has its own chapter.

Lawrence County Journal (Deadwood, SD)

Fascinating reading not only for the traveler willing to divert from interstate highways but also for the traveler who doesn’t have time or can’t afford to leave his living room couch.

Custer County Chronicle

This guide to drive-to novelties may help take the sting out of high fuel prices. Skewed toward the slightly nutty if not downright bizarre, the entries profiled here will attract travelers of all ages.

Bloomsbury Review

A tribute to our obsessions and passions, many of which are obnoxiously large monuments of commonplace creatures.

Capital Times (Madison, WI)

His descriptions and photographs of each site will be helpful if you are forced to choose between seeing, for example, the Spam Museum in Minnesota, the Museum of Ice Cream in Iowa or the world’s largest stack of empty oil cans in North Dakota.

Reference & Research Book News

A handy guide to many of the munificent and iconic roadside attractions scattered along the highways and byways. Well worth the price.

Midwest Book Review

The world’s largest turkey in Frazee is just one of the roadside attractions highlighted in Eric Dregni’s new book.

The Frazee-Vergas Forum

Dregni has done a good job of finding a wide variety of oddities and then tracking down their essential facts. His book is rich with photographs and details, a great book to toss into the back seat when you head out for the weekend.

Minnesota

Eric Dregni knows the Midwest at its most peculiar. Each entry in Dregni’s book—there are more than 100 featured—has a photograph and brief description, and also some anecdotal humor and commentary.

Minnesota Daily

Where on earth would anyone find an assembly of lederhosen-clad chipmunks hoisting their beer steins? At the Moccasin Bar in Hayward, WI, of course, which features other such marvels of taxidermy as sparring squirrels and a beaver referee. Dregni travels to states throughout the Midwest to take in their bizarre tourist attractions. Dregni pens engaging entries, each of which includes a few pages of background, travel instructions, and, in some cases, other nearby stops of interest. Public libraries in the Midwest will wish to purchase it for its in-depth coverage of the local wonders.

Library Journal

King of Kitsch: Marvelous author Eric Dregni maps wee wonders of Midwest. Having a conversation with Eric Dregni is like stripping paint off an old window frame. Just when you think you’ve reached bare wood, you find another layer of paint. Unless you have a lot of patience, you’ll give up on getting to the bottom long before this 38-year-old comic book creator, musician, artist and writer runs out of layers.

Villager

With gas prices edging to $3 a gallon again, it might be an opportune time to pick a summer vacation destination close to home. I’ve got just the planning guide for you. It’s Eric Dregni’s Midwest Marvels.

Rapid City Journal

Midwest Marvels

CONTENTS

Author’s Note
Preface
Acknowledgments

IOWA

Audubon Albert the Bull World’s Largest Anatomically Correct Bull Britt
Hobo Museum Wanderers Welcome! Burlington
Snake Alley “Crookedest Street in the World” Clear Lake
Surf Ballroom The Day the Music Died Council Bluffs
World’s Largest Golden Spike The Eastern Terminus
Squirrel Cage Jail Gentle Efficiency of Total Surveillance Dubuque
Fenelon Place Elevator World’s Shortest, Steepest Railroad Eldon
American Gothic House Grant Wood’s Muse Elk Horn
Danish Windmill Moving Monuments Overseas Festina
St. Anthony of Padua Chapel World’s Smallest Church Fort Dodge
Cardiff Giant Authentic Imitation of the Fake Le Mars
The Museum of Ice Cream ever on a Sundae Main Amana
Amana Colonies Collective Farm Tourism Marquette
Effigy Mounds Landmarks of the Ancients Marshalltown
Big Treehouse Swiss Family Robinson Dream Home Okoboji
University of Okoboji A School of the Mind Pella
Vermeer Mill Battling Windmills Pocahontas
Indian Princess Statue Welcomes the Weary Traveler Riverside
Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk Where the Trek Begins Spillville
Bily Clock Museum “Officially Priceless” Stanton
Coffee Pot and Cup Water Towers A Monument to “Mrs. Olson” Waukon
Cowboy and Steer Colossi in Fiberglass
House of Clocks Where Time Has Stopped West Bend
Grotto of the Redemption Immortality in Stone Winterset
Covered Bridges Madison County’s Pride

MINNESOTA
Alexandria
Kensington Runestone The Mystery Continues Austin
Spam Museum “I think; therefore, I Spam.” Belle Plaine
Two-Story Outhouse Historic Practical Joke? Blue Earth
Jolly Green Giant Who Stole Sprout? Collegeville
Saint Peregrine Roman Boy Martyr Crookston
Red River Ox Carts Fifteen Miles per Day Darwin
Twine Ball Largest Made by One Man Duluth
World’s Largest Aerial Lift Bridge Elevator to the Heavens Eveleth
World’s Largest Hockey Stick Notwithstanding the Weather Fergus Falls
World’s Largest Otter Another “Monstrosity”? Fosston
Cordwood Pete and Tamarack Paul Bunyan’s Kid Brother Frazee
World’s Largest Turkey It Only Takes a Spark ... Madison
Lou T. Fisk World’s Largest Cod Menahga
Saint Urho Patron Saint of Finland Minneapolis
Cherry Spoon Nation’s Largest Outdoor Sculpture Park
Weisman Art Museum “The Tin Can” Mora
Dala Horse Big Money in Horse Trading Rothsay
Booming Prairie Chicken Photo Op Extraordinaire St. Paul
Peanuts Park You’re a Statue, Charlie Brown Vining
Swollen Toe Sculpture Gas Station Art Park Tours
Big Fish Tour Perfect for Postcards
Paul Bunyan Tour Relics of the Giant
Voyageur Tour From Perseverance to Pierre

NORTH DAKOTA

Blanchard
KTHI-TV Tower World’s Tallest Structure Bottineau
Tommy Turtle Monument to Snowmobiling Casselton
Can Pile Biggest Birdhouse in the State Dickinson
Dakota Dinosaur Museum Yesterday’s GiantsDunseith
W’eel Turtle Rims as Art Fort Ransom
Thor the Viking God of the Ski Resort Garrison
Wally the Walleye No Small Fry Grand Forks
B-52 Bomber Third Largest Nuclear Power Grassy Butte
Old Sod Post Office Streets Paved with Glass Harvey
Og the Gorilla King Kong of the Prairie Jamestown
World’s Largest Buffalo Sixty Tons of Concrete Mandan
On-A-Slant Indian Village Mystery of the Mandan Minot
Scandinavian Heritage Center “Why Not Minot?” Napoleon
Thresher’s Row Dinosaurs of the Prairie New Salem
Salem Sue World’s Largest Holstein New Town
Earl Bunyan Brother of the Lumberjack Parshall
Paul Broste Rock Museum “An Astronomical Cavalcade” Regent
Enchanted Highway Big Is Beautiful Rugby
Geographical Center of North America “In the Heart of It All” Strasburg
Lawrence Welk’s Birthplace “Wunnerful, Wunnerful!” Wahpeton
Wahpper World’s Largest Catfish

SOUTH DAKOTA

Aberdeen
Storybook Land Over the Rainbow Clark
The Parade “Conversation Pieces” Custer
Flintstones’ Bedrock City A Modern, Stone-Age Community
Crazy Horse Memorial World’s Largest SculptureDeadwood
Old Style Saloon No. 10 Wild Bill’s Demise Gregory
Outhouse Museum A Visit to the White House Henry
Ten-Thousand-Pound Pheasant Tinkertown’s Trophy Hot Springs
Evan’s Plunge Waters to Cure Any Ill Huron
World’s Largest Pheasant Pose Next to the Ringneck Interior
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Cold War Tourism Keystone
Mount Rushmore The Bigger the Better Lead
Presidents Park Heads of State Lemmon
Petrified Wood Park A Depression-Era Vision Mitchell
Corn Palace World’s Biggest Birdfeeder Mobridge
Sitting Bull Bust The Bones of the Medicine Man Montrose
Porter Sculpture Park “Satanic Pornography”? Rapid City
Chapel in the Hills Ole and Lena’s Home
Dinosaur Park T. Rex vs. Triceratops
The Road to the Hills From Singing Cowboys to Yogi Bear Roslyn
International Vinegar Museum Taste the Sour Power Sioux Falls
U.S.S. South DakotaMemorial “Battleship X” Wall
Wall Drug From Jackalopes to Ice Water Webster Shoe House There Was an Old Woman ...

WISCONSIN

Aniwa
Behn’s Game Farm World’s Oldest Lion Tamer Baraboo
Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron A Transtemporal Spaceship Dickeyville
Holy Ghost Grotto A Vision from God Eagle River
Carl’s Wood Art Museum Wonderful World of Burls Fountain City
Rock in the House Living Dangerously Hayward
Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Into the Mouth of the Muskie
Moccasin Bar Taxidermists Gone Wild Hollandale
Grandview A Historical Backyard La Crosse
World’s Largest Six Pack Beer Is Back! Lake Delton
Wonder Spot
The Laws of Nature Repealed Marshfield
Jurustic Park Swamp Monsters Mercer
World’s Largest Loon
The Battle for the Bird Mount Horeb
Mustard Museum
Welcome, Alumni of Poupon U
Neillsville Chatty Belle
World’s Largest Talking Cow Phillips
Fred Smith’s Concrete Park
“For All the American People”
Rhinelander The Hodag
Beware the Bovine Spiritualis! Sparta
F.A.S.T.: Fiberglass Animals, Shapes, and Trademarks
The Graveyard of Roadside Attractions Spring Green
House on the Rock The Ultimate Bachelor Pad
Taliesin
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Utopian Oasis Valton
The Painted Forest “I Am Death!” Wisconsin Dells
The Ducks Thrills, Spills, and Splashes
Tommy Bartlett’s Robot World
“Caution: High Radiation Area” Driving Tour of the Dells From Vinland Vikings to a Trojan Horse

Bibliography