World's Largest Ball of Popcorn (Again!)


Sac City, Iowa

The World's Largest Ball of Popcorn has a great story - but don't take my word for it! Here's the letter I received after contacting the Sac City Chamber of Commerce for information on their World's Largest Ball of Popcorn:

The World's Largest Popcorn was built in April of 1995 to recognize the significance of popcorn as a crop in Sac County. Popcorn wasintroduced to the farmers here in 1885 and since the growing conditions for popcorn were found to be ideal in Sac County, much pop corn was grown and quickly this area of Iowa gained a reputation as the "Pop Corn Capital of the World."

In 1922, Rueckheim Bros & Eckstein became the Cracker Jack Co. and they purchased a plant in Odebolt, Iowa. In 1918 the Amercian Pop Corn Comapny built a company in Schaller, Iowa. Vogel Popcorn of rural Lake View was originally started as Quinn Popcorn in 1949. The Stock Popcorn Co. Inc. was established in Lake View in 1927 and Noble Popcorn was established in Sac City in the mid 1940's.

Sac County produces raw popcorn, microwave popcorn, colored popcorn, popcorn on the cob for microwaving and here in Sac City at the Noble Popcorn Plant, they have devised great recipes for flavored popcorn - French Vanilla, Cheddar Cheese, Carmel, Cinnamon and more during the holidays. (You can visit their Web site and even order some popcorn at - French Vanilla is the favorite but Cinnamon is getting right up there.)

It was this popcorn that inspired the World's Largest Popcorn Ball. We were preparing for our annual business and product show and thought we would highlight an agricultural product. I contacted the Guinness Book of World Records Facts on File office in New York City. When the gentlemen answered the phone, I told him that we would like to build the World's Largest Popcorn Ball and asked what the record was. He asked, "What?" I told him again, "The World's Largest Popcorn Ball." He asked, "What's that?" I thought he was joking and said, "What did your grandmother feed you for a treat when you were a child." He said, "Chicken Soup." I had my work cut out for me.

I went to the Noble plant and we made popcorn balls from their flavored popcorn, wrapped them up, packaged them in a decorative tin and sent it off to the Facts on File office. When they recieved the package, I quickly received a call and they were excited.

In order to qualify for a record, you must have an official recipe (if it is an edible product) and you must also have a certified weight. We asked our Iowa State University Extension office to verify the recipe and the Iowa Department of Transportation Vehicle Enforcement crew to bring in their portable scales. The fun was infectious and everybody had a great time - in fact we were featured in the Department's newsletter that month.

It took 35 volunteers 10 hours to build a 2,225 pound popcorn ball and believe me, we packed that thing solid. The women in the kitchen would make the flavored popcorn in big mixers, we would haul it by the basket full out to the staging area and proceed to add to the pile, until we made a ball that was 22 feet in circumference.

We were thrilled and a little in awe as to what to do with it then. We wrapped it in shrink wrap and discovered the next day that we should have let it cool out, so we uncovered it and later rewrapped it for safe keeping. By this time, the television stations (who wouldn't cover the project as it was being built)were more than anxious to get a peak at this culinary marvel.

Needless to say - it was a hit at the Sac County Expo that year and we drew record crowds of 12,000 people. We had folks who drove from Arizona just to see this thing. Naturally we all had T-shirts, live radio station remotes, posters, etc. and it was in deed the biggest thing that we had done. We were being interviewed by all the early morning radio shows from coast to coast and many magazines, newspapers, and television stations as well. I remember getting up at 4:30 in the morning to be on the east coast radio shows.

It traveled to the Iowa State Fair where it joined the Butter Cow and other marvels on display. (My family had asked me not to think of any more "BIG" things for a while.) Natually the local people loved it and the flavored popcorn business boomed. A picture of the ball was at the displays in all the stores. Guinness certified our accomplishments and it is pictured in the 1996 hard cover edition.

Almost two years later and thousands of visitors (including RAGBRAI), we were growing tired of stopping our work to take folks to a warehouse to view it, so the manager at the local popcorn plant suggested we let the local County Fair Board blow it up at their thrill show. A certified demolitions expert loaded the ball with 7 sticks of dynamite, the grandstands were packed, the broadcasting companies had their rigs in place to download the event throughout the country.

The ball looked lonely sitting across the infield of the fairgrounds - far away from the crowd of people. When the plunger fell, we expected a "rain of popcorn." Little did we know that after two years, it was still gooey in the middle. It just kind of broke apart in big pieces and the crowd stormed out to get a chunk for a souvenir.

After all this time, we are really considering outdoing the popcorn ball. Sac City is celebrating its 150th - Sesquicentennial in 2005 and I have planted the seed that we need to build another ball. The local Museum is setting up an historical village and we have put in our request for a building with a plexiglass front that would allow us to leave the ball open for display along U.S. Highway 20. Things have a way of working out for us here - people like to join in the fun so it could very well happen.

In 1996 we did build a 750 gal. Coke can to display with our Popcorn Ball. (Some of my friends worked throughout the night and built a striped straw out of PVC pipe - just to see the look on my face the next morning.) It is still in existence.

During the late 1990's when we were promoting our Great Sac County Meltdown & Shape Up, we built a huge salad in a stock tank (a new one, of course), tossed it with pitch forks and served it at the sign-up session. You see - we just like to have a good time and certainly love to have people recognize that, "We're not bored out here in rural Iowa, we're creative!" By the way - at our Meltdown, we weighed 10 member teams of people in on grain elevator scales, promoted an exercise program for 90 days and then re weighed them. The first year we lost over 6,000 pounds and were featured in the Family Circle magazine (Nov. 22, 1988.)


And... Part Two:

Hi there -

I'm with the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum. I contacted you a couple of years ago about the World's Largest Popcorn Ball, and you sent the greatest narrative of how it came to be, construction, and destruction. I was re-reading it the other day, and in the story you mentioned that the town may just make an EVEN BIGGER ONE for Sac City's (Sesquecentennial? Quasquecentennial? Important Anniversary, anyway...) and that would be in 2005. Are there any World's Largest Plans on the books? Popcorn festival that the museum might need to visit? Help popping popcorn or stirring caramel?

If you're planning an event, please let me know - it's such a good story, and everyone I describe it to (because there IS a popcorn ball replica in my museum - complete with tiny sticks of dinomite sticking out...) just loves

Thanks so much,
Erika Nelson
creator and curator
World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum


Actually we did build an even bigger one on June 12, 2004. This time the ball was 3,100 pounds. It's great. We have submitted all appropriate documentation to Guinness Book of World Records and are awaiting the final word on the World's Largest designation. Once again volunteers and some staff built the ball at the Noble Popcorn Plant in Sac City.

We did make the ball to celebrate Sac City's Sesquicentennial on July 1-4, 2005. The ball has traveled to area parades and was featured at the Boy Scout Jamboree last fall in Des Moines, Iowa. There is a building that will be constructed on our Museum lot to house the popcorn ball and other historical momentos of the popcorn industry. Construction will begin in the spring of 2005.

Thanks for inquiring about our special feat. I enjoy your newsletter when I receive it.

Shirley Phillips, Sac Economic & Tourism Development
615 West Main Street, Sac City, Iowa 50583

"Have a Poppin' Good Time in Sac County"


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Lucas KS 67648-0101


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