July 29, 2004
Researcher to certify Kool-Aid stand as world's largest
Amy Palser, Hastings Tribune
Does Hastings have the World's Largest Kool-Aid Stand? The city and the world have yet to find out.
But after Kool-Aid Days 2004, erika Nelson promises to provide an answer.
Nelson, 29, is a traveling artist out of Lucas, Kan., who researches the world's largest things and other roadside attractions across America.
Nelson will be in Hastings during Kool-Aid Days Aug. 13 - 15, when she plans to see the World's Lartgest Kool-Aid Stand in person and compare it to her research.
The 75-foot stand is constructed for Kool-Aid Days each year. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, the main day of the festival, the stand is the main draw, and a long line of volunteers pour 14 flavors of Kool-Aid into purchased commemorative cups. It's all you can drink, and the drinking doesn't stop until the stand comes down.
While Hastings can call itself the birthplace of Kool-Aid, Nelson can't say whether the Kool-Aid stand can be called the world's largest.
"That's what I hope to find out," she said. "For me it is still a myth. It is a quest."
While Nelson's "quest" may seem somewhat silly, she said having a world's largest thing can mean tourist dollars for a community.
Some little-known towns have made international names for themselves, all based on their largest item.
For example, Winlock, Wash., a town of fewer than 4,000, is home to the world's largest egg, which stands on a post in the town park. The egg is decorated year-round to coincide with holidays (pastels for Easter; red, white and blue for Independence Day.) And each year, the town population multiplies significantly for the three-day Egg Days festival.
Nelson said that when she traveled to Winlock to certify its egg as the world's largest, she got sucked into staying an extra week for the festival.
"It was an amazing festival," she said, and put many other festivals to shame.
There is an egg queen coronation, a parade and even the Eggapalooza music festival
Nelson said she can visualize a similar festival in Hastings, expanding on the success Kool-Aid Days already has had..
"You're the home of Kool-Aid," Nelson said. "There is nobody else in the nation that can say that."
Nelson said she often meets with city leaders and festival organizers to give them ideas about their festivals and how to market their world's largest thing.
Nelson's love for the large and kitschy started when she was young.
She was 3 when she visited the giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox figure in Minnesota. Then at age 5 she got to see the world's largest eight-ball.
By then, her fascination ran deep. With an education in art and several 'real jobe' like college instructor and graphic designer under her belt, Nelson hit the road in 2003 to search out the world's largets things full time.
"This is really what I do," she said.
She supplements her income by selling art and doing other art-oriented projects.
She travels in a 16-passenger bus - a converted senior citizen transportation van - which houses her living space and a traveling museum.
Called the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum, the bus shows off the world's largest things in miniature.
That's part of Nelson's mission: Whenever she certifies something as a world's largest, she makes a world's smallest of it for the museum.
The bus is painted in carnival fashion, she said, and is immediately attractive to children. She said she hopes to bring it with her to Kool-Aid Days.
Among the items she has certified as world's largest are the largest strawberry (made of fiberglass) in Strawberry Point, Iowa; the largest otter in Fergus Falls, Minn.; the largest pecan (made of concrete) in Brunswick, Mo.; the largest ball of stamps in Omaha; and even the world's largest porch swing in Hebron.
Nelson said there are multiple types of world's largest things.
There are things that accumulate, like the world's largest ball of twine; things that used to be useful but no longer are, like the world's largest hand-dug well; fiberglass sculptures, like the world's largest dough-nut; edible things, like the world's largest pancake; and temporary structure, like Hastings' Kool-Aid stand.
And whether that makes it to the list, only Nelson can say.
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