Roadside attractions in Wisconsin
From off-the-wall festivals to outrageous legends, Wisconsin takes home top honors in the weirdness category. So when it comes to strange roadside attractions, it should surprise no one the state boasts an impressive collection. Here’s your guide to seven of Wisconsin’s quirkiest roadside attractions:
World’s Largest Fiberglass Fish, National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Hayward: The largest object in the small town of Hayward draws 100,000 visitors each year. The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is inside the world’s largest fiberglass fish, which is, more specifically, our state fish: the Muskellunge —or “Musky” for short. Visitors enter the museum through a door in the Musky’s tail and explore collections inside the four-story fish. At the height of the museum’s stairs, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views from the observation deck inside the fish’s mouth.
Sputnik Crash Site, Manitowoc: The Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc is full of interesting artifacts, but only one arrived to the museum by crashing down from the sky. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik IV on May 14, 1960. Due to a rocket malfunction, it drifted in space for years before falling out of its orbit Sept. 6, 1962. Nearly all of the spacecraft disintegrated before reaching the earth, but one 20-pound chunk of Sputnik made a permanent dent in downtown Manitowoc. The city of Manitowoc has honored the fallen piece of Sputnik since 2008 with its annual Sputnikfest.
Chatty Belle, The Talking Cow, Neillsville: Chatty Belle, the world’s largest talking cow, was Wisconsin’s contribution to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Today, she resides happily in Neillsville. This fiberglass oddity stands tall at 16 feet and measures 20 feet long, which makes her seven times larger than your typical Holstein.
World’s Largest Penny, Woodruff: This unusual monument was created in honor of Dr. Kate Pelham who, in the early 1900s, was a family doctor to residents in an area of about 300 square miles in northern Wisconsin. In 1953, Dr. Pelham began fundraising for a hospital in Woodruff, and a local high school class made it their mission to “save their pennies” and donate $10,000 to the future hospital. The class raised $17,000 and attracted national attention. The hospital opened shortly after and the giant penny statue was unveiled in 1954.
World’s Heaviest Ball of Twine, Lake Nebagamon: James Frank Kotera, who goes by JFK, began building the world’s heaviest ball of twine in 1979. He continues to work on making the ball larger, and estimates that it currently weighs more than 20,000 lbs. During the summer months, JFK regularly greets visitors who come to take pictures of the wonder, as he’s often outdoors working on growing this gigantic twine ball.
Fiberglass Statue Mold Yard, Sparta: Fiberglass Animals Shapes and Trademarks (FAST) makes thousands of signs and other products every year. Waterslides that look like open-mouthed frogs? They make ‘em. Giant fiberglass Musky? They make those, too. Many of their old and abandoned products can be found in the “graveyard” located next to their workshop, which visitors can stroll through at any time.
The Rock in the House, Fountain City: On April 24, 1995, a 55-ton boulder rolled down a hill and crashed into the home of Dwight and Maxine Anderson. A few weeks later, a man named Jon Burt bought the house and turned it into a unique roadside attraction. The house is available for visitors to see 24/7 from April to October and has a $2 honor system cost.
Hayley Braun is a member of the Discover Wisconsin crew. She hails from Hayward, Wisconsin, home to championship lumberjacks, the American Birkebiener, and the world’s largest fiberglass fish. Some of her favorite Wisconsin memories include family summer vacations to the Dells and Saturday farmers’ markets in Madison. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she obtained