Eddie, World's Biggest Kid - EdVenture
Columbia, South Carolina
Ten-year-olds can be a handful. Imagine one who weighs 35,000 pounds.
That's Eddie, the centerpiece of EdVenture, the largest kids' museum in the Old South. EdVenture is a place where children can watch a virtual meal get digested, or stock shelves in a mini-supermarket. Similar kids' museums exist all over the country, but none have anything close to Eddie.
Eddie is 40 feet tall even though he's sitting down -- twice the size of the seated Lincoln in Washington, D.C. He fills a custom-built glass atrium opposite the museum's front door, grinning at a similarly oversized dragonfly perched on his finger, which is so high that you have to climb to the second floor to see it. EdVenture says that Eddie was designed to physically reflect all the races of South Carolina, and that he represents "a typical ten-year-old boy." The only peculiarity in his accessories, which include a ball cap and a kid's backpack, is his anachronistic wristwatch.
Eddie would be worth seeing just for his size. But the World's Biggest Kid is also hollow, and the museum encourages all visitors to explore his inner spaces. Most of the adults that we saw took one look into Eddie's cramped, jungle-gym interior and were happy to wait outside.
Seen from within, Eddie is more cyborg than child, a mix of superhuman organs and industrial metal grillwork. His body is a greatly expanded version of the classic Walk-Thru Heart attraction, with red arterial walls and lots of tubes for scrambling. Kids can climb into Eddie's brain, crawl through his heart, bounce around in his stomach.
The interior of Eddie's giant face, with its exposed molars, nasal cavities, and eye sockets, is as ghoulish as it is instructive. In contrast, Eddie's pink stomach is a puffy Hugh Hefner play pit, with oversize pillows of a slab of meat, a stack of pancakes, and an ice cream sandwich. No lessons in healthy eating there, but Eddie makes up for it by getting kids to move around. They exit by sliding out his colon to the floor below -- as they hear the sound of a loud fart.
EdVenture calls Eddie its "ambassador." He reappears, human-size, at other places in the museum: as a gape-mouthed, terror-stricken patient lying prone in a dentist's chair; as the body in as a life-size version of the game Operation. "See if you can remove some of the inside parts of Eddie," a sign instructs. Kids can yank out poor Eddie's heart, a kidney, a lung, his femur, and a hunk of his intestines.
With Eddie being drilled, dissected, and burrowed from within, there's little time to reflect on the children's' relationship to the World's Biggest Kid. Are they learning to be saviors? Tormentors? Inconspicuous plasma passing through? Maybe they're just happy to have a playmate the size of a battleship. The high-decibel squeals from inside him suggest that Eddie, for all his pummeling, is the most popular kid in South Carolina.