Don't get me wrong, I think the 9,000 pound popcorn ball in Sac City is cool.
(Though by my calculations, it would check in somewhere north of four million calories, so it's probably best to just look at it, unless you want the world's largest diet to follow.)
Such an accomplishment takes a lot of commitment, planning and effort. If an outsize popcorn ball turns out to be a tourism magnet, good on them.
Hundreds of volunteers were required, they say with deserved pride - even a Congressman showed up to pitch in popcorn balling. (Congressmen have been in sticky situations before.)
It probably isn't cheap to make a snack the size of a 1960s VW bus, either. That's a lot of popcorn and other materials to be grown/bought/donated. The thing is too big for the old ball's building, so new accommodations must be prepared. It will need to be covered in polyurethane in hopes of slowing down the rotting and discouraging hungry bugs. A special mold and pallet had to be built to make and move the thing, and now t-shirts need to be sold to make the money for a new building.
It's a big deal, and it deserves the big-time statewide news coverage it got, even though this is the fourth time around for record Sac balls, and one must assume, competition will eventually force a still bigger project. Once a popcorn ball arms race is underway, there's no stopping it.
It's about having a claim to fame. Celebrating a local industry. Getting people together for a summer activity. It's quirky, an old-fashioned roadside attraction, and quirks are cool.
So build yourself a gigantic popcorn ball, if that's your thing, by all means. Build a giant whatever, do the biggest and bestest and most world recordly thing you can imagine and hype it for all its worth. Heck, maybe Storm Lake should have the world's largest walleye or beaver. Who's got the largest burrito? How about a 10-acre bikini? Let's hear your ideas. It can go with our lighthouse that's nowhere near water and our creative spelling with all of our attractions sporting an "extra e" on the end.
Everyplace needs its quirks, it's individuality, and that's cool.
After all, Strawberry Point has the world's largest strawberry, Audubon has Albert the world's largest bull, Shelby has the largest shaft of wheat, Pocahontas has the record-size Indian princess, Albert City the most massive Dahla Horse, Mallard the biggest duck, Crystal Lake the record bullhead, Stanton the most magnificent coffee cup, West Amana the super-duper rocking chair, Johnston the biggest pitchfork, Pella the largest Dutch windmill, and there's probably more that I have yet to hear about in my travels. There's big business is being the biggest something.
And such projects do show what a community can do when it works together. Even more important than the bigness, is doing something together. We can all be inspired to follow that lead in our town and neighborhoods.
I just hope it doesn't begin and end with records and bigness.
Hundreds of volunteers, donations from the big companies in town, ingenuity and fundraising can indeed build a really big popcorn ball.
But it could also open a food pantry that can feed needy people. It can build a playground or basketball courts or a pool to give kids a place to go. It can help elderly and limited-income people repair their houses. It can save wildlife habitats. It can shelter abused or stray pets. It can fund scholarships. It can harvest fields for a fallen farmer, or help a family with a child going through leukemia.
Community energy and cooperation can do a lot to help people.
What does your town need? Whatever your big popcorn ball may be, it can be done if people see the value and pull together.
And that's very cool.