Some are Wisconsin's roadside attractions are weird, others intriguing and a few are pretty darn interesting. (Surprisingly, no massive chunks of cheese are on the list.) In no particular order, here are some of my favorites.
Wisconsin Concrete Park Fred Smith's Concrete Park, along State-13 in northwestern Wisconsin, is considered one of America’s most unusual folk art displays. Smith, a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, started making giant figures out of concrete in 1948, when he was 62. Smith decorated his statues with bits of broken glass and discarded objects, then set them out for everyone to see. His creations ran the gamut from depictions of local acquaintances to Ben Hur to Paul Bunyan (Smith once worked as a lumberjack). By the time Smith died in 1976, he'd crafted 200 figures. Today his park is promoted by Price County with help from Friends of Fred Smith Inc. wisconsinconcretepark.org
North America's Tallest Flagpole It took Sheboygan's Acuity Insurance four tries over about 10 years to successfully erect a giant flagpole from which they could hang an equally giant American flag (60x120 feet). The tallest (and hopefully sturdiest) flagpole—a 400-foot behemoth—was built last year. The flagpole sits on Acuity's headquarters campus halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay. You can't miss it; it's considered one of the most visible landmarks on that stretch of Interstate-43. If you stop to take a closer look (the flagpole can be visited at any time), don't miss the brick paver patio at the base of the flagpole, which displays the names of all Sheboygan County residents killed in active duty. acuity.com
And for those who are fact geeks:
- The flagpole is about 100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.
- There are two flags for the pole. A 220-pound flag is flown in normal weather conditions, while a beefy 350-pounder takes over when the weather is harsh.
- More than 500 gallons of paint were used to cover the pole.
- 680 cubic yards of concrete were used in the foundation.
Photo courtesy of Acuity
Dr. Evermor's Forevertron It's not unusual for artists to create statues from scrap metal and other found objects. But there's nothing quite like Dr. Evermor's Forevertron. The heart of Dr. Evermor’s park in North Freedom is Forevertron, one of the largest scrap metal art sculptures in the world. The 320-ton piece is Dr. Evermor's interpretation of a mystical space-traveling machine; one of its components is a decompression chamber from an Apollo space mission. (Dr. Evermor, aka Tom Every, formerly worked as an industrial wrecking and salvage expert.) In addition to Forevertron, you'll find numerous smaller sculptures on the grounds. Lady Eleanor, Dr. Evermor's wife, is often on site, and sells a handful of her husband's more reasonably size creations. Call Lady Eleanor if you'd like to schedule a tour; you can also wander around on your own (call before going to confirm the park is open). Dr. Evermor's Forevertron has been featured on American Pickers, the Discovery Channel and Ripley's Believe It or Not. worldofdrevermor.com
Giant Statues No one can resist a photo op with these guys. Here are some of Wisconsin’s best big statues:
- World's Largest Fiberglass Fish The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward is housed inside this massive Muskellunge, or Musky, which is half a city block long and 4-1/2 stories tall. Take a pic from the observation deck in the fish's mouth. freshwater-fishing.org
Photo courtesy of Emmett Brown; Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, Hayward, WI
- World's Largest Penny This 15-foot-tall coin in Woodruff honors an early-20th-century female physician who raised money for the town's first hospital. drkatemuseum.org
- Romeo, Killer Elephant Romeo, a rendition of an 1800s-era circus elephant that killed five people, is part of a collection of circus animal statues commemorating Delavan’s history as the winter grounds for traveling circuses. roadsideamerica.com
- Hodag This vicious, green, lizardlike, horned statue represents a mythical woodland creature said to live here. explorerhinelander.com
Photo courtesy of the Rhineland Area Chamber of Commerce