Explore the World’s Largest Things in Kansas
Scattered throughout Kansas, 18 World’s Largest Things will astound you. The colossal world-record holders range from a gigantic grain elevator to a huge hairball. Abilene boasts the newest world record, the World’s Largest Belt Buckle. Three US champions will astonish you, but three world champions lost their thrones. Even after their dethroning, they’re still amazing. The Midwest is full of the world’s largest things, like these in Iowa.
Some of these places hosted me, but all opinions are my own.
1. World’s largest grain elevator, a big Kansas thing
Wichita knows how to create big things. Case in point: Kansas’s largest city enjoys both the World’s Largest — and Longest — Grain Elevator and “El Sueño Original/The Original Dream,” the Largest Acrylic Mural Painted by a Single Artist. The mural covers a grain elevator, but that elevator is not the world’s largest.
Gavilon Grain’s cement mammoth extends 2,717 feet. That’s more than half a mile long. It holds 22.4 million bushels of wheat. That’s enough wheat to supply all the bread on Americans’ tables for six weeks. The elevator was even longer before an explosion forced then-owner DeBruce Grain to trim 30 feet from each end.
Related: Enjoy some of these terrific food and drink places in Wichita.
Roxie’s reliable report: Hutchinson’s grain elevators are close competitors in the world’s largest competition. They appeared in the classic movie Picnic starring William Holden and Kim Novak.
2. World’s largest single-artist mural
The world’s largest single-artist mural, “El Sueño Original,” celebrates people of color. And every person in the mural is from the Wichita neighborhood. Some portraits feature the Mexican laborers who built the railroad tracks surrounding the elevator.
The entire Horizontes project, including numerous murals, focuses on bringing solidarity to the historically Latino and Black neighborhoods on the city’s northern sides. They add texture to the world’s largest thing in Kansas.
Related: See more murals in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.
3. World’s Largest Painting on an Easel
The World’s Largest Painting on an Easel, one of three giant Vincent van Gogh sunflower painting replicas. Canadian artist Cameron Cross re-created the 80-foot high giant van Gogh paintings in Altoona, Manitoba, Canada, and Emerald, Queensland, Australia.
Related: Goodland’s entry to the World’s Largest Things in Kansas is among its Top 10 Things to Do.
4. The World’s Largest Souvenir Travel Plate
Lucas is all about quirky art, and the World’s Largest Souvenir Plate explains all about the little city on the Post Rock Scenic Byway. Wilson Telephone donated the 14-foot satellite dish, and Erika Nelson painted the concave surface. A smaller dish is the center medallion. Read her detailed explanation.
5. See the World’s Largest Collection of … the World’s Largest Things
Nelson visits all of the World’s Largest Things, photographs, researches them, and then creates a tiny version for her collection. Because she’s often on the road collecting, her Lucas museum is only open by chance or appointment. You never know what World’s Largest Thing she’ll bring home to Kansas.
6. Cowboy up with the World’s Largest Belt Buckle
Rodeo champions receive elaborate belt buckles, and Abilene was the Chisholm Trail‘s destination for thousands of cowboys from 1867-1872. Therefore, what could be more appropriate for an Abilene world record than a championship belt buckle?
Abilene officials unveiled their buckle on December 21, 2022. It’s 19 feet, 10.5 inches wide, and 13 feet, 11.25 inches high. Officials kept the buckle’s dimensions a secret to prevent other communities from beating Abilene’s. Jason Lahr of Fluter’s Creek Metal Works sculpted a blue quartz giant longhorn head at the buckle’s center, with wheat heads at each side of the center section.
The buckle’s adornments acknowledge Abilene’s signature personalities and attractions: Wild Bill Hickok, C.L. Brown telephone, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Seelye Mansion, a racing greyhound, and the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad.
Related: Experience Abilene’s five-star attractions.
Abilene had lost its record holder, the World’s Largest Spur, when a Texas town built a bigger one. The buckle puts Abilene back into the record holder category.
7. World’s Largest Hairball in Garden City, Kansas
Unlike cats, cattle cannot eliminate the hair they ingest. So hairballs collect in their stomachs. In 1993, IPB pulled this 35.5-inch, 2o-pound giant from a bovine stomach. Originally, it weighed 55 pounds and measured 37 inches around, but it shrank as it dried. Yes, it is entirely made of hair. The Finney County Historical Museum X-rayed it, to be certain. Can we get odder than this?
Related: Garden City is a great place to spend a weekend.
8. World’s Largest Twine Ball
Remaining the twine champion has been a tug-of-war for the World’s Largest Ball of Sisal Twine in Cawker City. Frank Johnson started the Cawker City ball in 1953 after reading about Francis Johnson’s ball in Darwin, Minnesota. Stoeber’s ball grew faster than Johnson’s and entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1973. After Stoeber died in 1975, Johnson added to his ball until 1979.
Cawker City refused to lose. Visitors are welcome to add to the twine ball, but only if it’s official. To tie one on, contact the official caretaker.
The community holds the Twine-A-Thon every August.
9. World’s Largest Baseball, a big thing in Kansas
Muscotah native Joe Tinker was the first part of Major League Baseball’s most famous double-play combination, Tinker to Evers to Chance. While Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance played from 1902-12, the Chicago Cubs won four pennants and two world championships in 1907 and 1908. The Cubs didn’t win another title until 2016.
While the trio’s play was superb, a poem, Baseball’s Sad Lexicon by Franklin Pierce Adams, boosted their Hall of Fame chances:
These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double —
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
When Muscotah got a new water tower, Jeff Hanson bought the tower ball for $2,000. In 2013, the Kansas Explorers Club helped people from Muscotah turn the old tower into a 20-foot baseball. The stitches are red-painted rebar. (We’re proud to be Kansas Explorers Club members!)
Sault Ste. Marie says they have the World’s Largest Baseball. However, the Ontario ball is only 10 feet in diameter, half the Kansas ball’s size. The World’s Largest Baseball is firmly in Kansas.
10. World’s Largest Cannonball Concretions
When they saw Rock City from a distance, pioneers believed they saw resting bison. Instead, they were looking at giant cannonball concretions, the largest in the world. Over 200 of these giant rocks dot the park in three clusters. Some of the rocks are 27 feet wide.
Over 100 million years ago, an ocean covered Kansas. Lime in the groundwater cemented tiny particles of sandstone together over time. The particles continued to adhere to each other in roughly ball-shaped formations. Eventually, the uncemented sandstone eroded, leaving the concretions behind.
The City of Minneapolis preserves the rocks in a city park. Watch for the wildflowers that grow on the rocks. Bring a picnic lunch.
Related: Tour these and more Kansas rocks.
11. World’s Heaviest Hailstone
An unwelcome atmospheric visitor crashed into Coffeyville on September 3, 1970. The jagged hailstone weighed 1.67 pounds and was 17.5 inches in circumference. Meteorologists estimated its velocity at 105 mph. See a replica at the Dalton Defenders Museum.
12. World’s Largest Collection of Russian and American Space Artifacts
While Hutchinson comes up short in the world’s largest grain elevator contest, it wins in the spaceflight artifact contest. The Cosmosphere started small, with a planetarium set up in the Kansas State Fair’s Poultry Building. Eventually, the planetarium moved to Hutchinson Community College, and it grew from there. The collection now spans items from the beginning of spaceflight to the current private space exploration companies. We love the Cosmosphere’s SR-71 Blackbird and its Apollo 13 capsule.
Related: The Cosmosphere is one of the top 10 things to do in South Central Kansas.
13. World’s Largest Electric Shovel
While the Cosmosphere is full of things that fly, Big Brutus is firmly tied to the earth. Explore the neighboring Mined Land Wildlife Area to see what Big Brutus did. The hungry beast devoured the land for strip mining. You’ll see the big behemoth long before you drive onto the museum grounds. At 16 stories (160 feet), Big Brutus dominates the landscape — even in retirement. Make sure to climb inside and sit in the operator’s chair.
14. World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well
Strip miners enjoyed the helping scoop from Big Brutus as they dug. Greensburg pioneers had no such wonderful invention to speed their dig to water, so they used shovels and picks. On August 9, 1887, Jack Wheeler and his crew began digging. Two years later, their well was a 32 feet wide and 109 feet deep hole between two-foot thick walls of native stone from the Medicine River. The Big Well supplied all of Greensburg’s water until 1932 when the city added another water source. In 1939, the city began promoting its well as a tourist site.
In 1993, my husband and I went on our first out-of-town date at the Big Well. We walked down an open spiral staircase. We could see all the way to the bottom through the stairstep grids, an intimidating sight. The Big Well seemed to be the perfect tornado shelter.
On May 7, 2007, an F5 tornado devastated Greensburg, destroying the Big Well’s entire above-ground structure. The new Big Well opened on May 26, 2012. Visitors may no longer walk to the well’s bottom, but the Greensburg history exhibits are fascinating and well worth examining.
Related: Experience the top five things to do in Greensburg.
15. World’s Longest Wooden Chain
Jim Porter carved a wooden chain that’s nearly a quarter-mile long. He exhibited it on The Tonight Show when it was “only” 705 feet long. When Porter appeared on The Tonight Show, he andhost Johnny Carson chatted about whittling for 22 minutes. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not asked to buy the chain, but Porter refused. It’s now in the Baxter Springs Heritage Museum. Also, look for it in the brick mural on Baxter Springs’ American Bank.
Related: Get your kicks on Kansas Route 66.
16. World’s Largest Wren
Which came first, the wren or the egg? In Kansas, the wren came first. By 1947, radio station WREN had installed the World’s Largest Wren at its Tonganoxie transmitter. The station moved to Topeka that year, bringing the giant bird with it. When the station failed in 1987, the City of Topeka placed the bird in Huntoon Park. The current WREN is a digital radio station playing Golden Oldies.
17. The World’s Largest Russian Egg stands near the wren
The 6.5-foot tall World’s Largest Russian Egg stands south of the World’s Largest Wren on 12th Street between Kansas and Topeka Avenues. The Mulvane Art Museum created the egg.
Related: The wren and Russian egg are near the Kansas State Capitol, one of the top 10 things to do in Northeast Kansas.
18. World’s Largest Czech Egg
Topeka’s Russian egg is tiny compared to the giant in Wilson. The Wilson egg measures 20 feet high and 15 feet wide. After numerous fundraisers, the fiberglass egg arrived in Wilson in August 2012. Over the next two years, volunteers sanded and painted the egg black. In 2015, Wilson art teacher Christine Slechta, students, and volunteers painted the design.
19. World’s Largest Chimney Sweep
The first Happy Chef Restaurant opened in Mankato, Minnesota, in 1963. The chain expanded to 56 restaurants, including one in McPherson. The 30-foot-tall Happy Chef stood outside, holding a spoon. Push a button, and the chef talked. On July 8, 1999, the McPherson Sentinel announced the restaurant’s impending demise. Upset McPherson residents worried about the chef’s plans. Chimney and Stone in McPherson accepted the chef’s application to become a chimney sweep. In 2000, he took up his place on I-135 south of McPherson, where he remains today.
20. World’s Longest Yellow Brick Road
Sedan has two claims to fame. Famous circus clown, Emmett Kelly, was born in the small city, which honors his memory at the Emmett Kelly Historical Museum downtown. The entire downtown is wrapped in the World’s Longest Yellow Brick Road, one of the world’s largest things in Kansas. The city poured its first brick section in December 1999. It holds 11,500 bricks representing all 50 states and 28 foreign countries. Celebrity brick buyers include Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Taylor, and Whoopi Goldberg. Apparently, Judy Garland and Elton John aren’t represented, but you can add your name.
Related: The Yellow Brick Road is one of many Oz-related places in Kansas.
The American champions
Cheyenne Bottoms is the largest “thing” in this post. With 41,000 acres, it’s America’s largest interior marsh. From the air, it looks like a giant thumbprint cookie. The Bottoms are a major stop on the Central Flyway, the great bird-migration interstate. Kansas is home to 477 bird species. Of those, 352 are found at Cheyenne Bottoms.
The best time to visit is during the spring migration, which is more concentrated. Fall migration begins as early as July and extends into the late fall.
Start your tour at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.
Related: Spend a weekend in fascinating Great Bend.
1. America’s largest helium plant
When Air Products expanded its helium liquefier plant in Liberal during 2000, it became the World’s Largest. It could produce up to 1 billion standard cubic feet per year of helium. For perspective, filling 1,000 18-inch round foil balloons would require 500 cubic feet of helium. More practically, semiconductor and satellite factories use helium, as do deep-sea divers.
However, in 2013, the Liberal plant lost its world title to a plant in Qatar.
2. America’s largest Whole Wall Mural
Concordia is modest about its Whole Wall Mural. The Cloud County Tourism staff doesn’t claim that its office boasts the world’s largest brick mural, although it probably is. They do lay claim to being the North American brick mural champion. The sculpted brick mural stretches 140 feet on Cloud County Tourism’s east exterior wall. It depicts Cloud County’s history, including Cloud Ceramics‘ beehive kilns. Artists Catherine Magel of St. Louis and Mara Smith of Seattle sculpted the mural in 2008 in space donated by Cloud County Community College. Cloud Ceramics donated the Dakota clay brick, transported it, and flash-fired the 6,400 bricks.
Related: The gorgeous mural helps make Concordia one of the best 15 places to visit in Kansas.
Former world’s largest champions in Kansas
1. The former World’s Largest Spur
Abilene’s World’s Largest Spur candidate has moved around. At first, it stood in the Dickinson County Fairgrounds’s main horse ring. Now it stands at Rittel’s Western Wear’s entrance. The spur is 27 feet high with a star-shaped rowel in its shank. When you visit Rittel’s, make sure to pet their dog, Rio.
From its installation in 2002 until 2013, Abilene held the world spur title. But then Lampasas, Texas, booted Abilene from its ruling place. The Texas spur stands 35 feet high.
2. The former World’s Largest Pallasite Meteorite
Greensburg has produced two of the World’s Largest Pallasite Meteorites. Unfortunately, only one of them remains in Greensburg — and it’s the smaller of the two. H.O. Stockwell and landowner Bob Peck found the 1,000-pound Space Wanderer east of Greensburg with a giant home-built metal detector.
In 2005, Steve Arnold found a 1,400-pound monster meteorite near the Space Wanderer. This meteorite has wandered the earth on tour.
After the 2007 tornado, people feared the tornado had sent Greensburg’s meteorite flying again. Instead, Don Stimpson found it in the wreckage of the original Big Well Museum.
3. The former world’s largest Book Front
In the spring of 1951, Liberal broke ground for its new library. Mr. and Mrs. E.D. Cooper donated the land and half of the construction costs. Fittingly, Mr. Cooper turned the first spade of soil for the new library.
In 1954, the building’s original architect, George Pitcher, designed a new library entrance. A year later, patrons started walking through a book to enter the library. Alas, the signature entrance was not to last. Structural reasons required the library to move the entrance to the side of the book in 1988.
4. The former World’s Largest Pool
People came from California to watch the Garden City Zoo elephants swimming in the World’s Largest Pool. Garden City has closed its World’s Largest Swimming Pool because the pool was no longer structurally sound.
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