Skip to Main Content

Town pride in Francis Johnson's ball. Darwin, Minnesota. (1998)
Town pride in Francis Johnson's ball. Darwin, Minnesota (1998).

Towns with Balls

There are more than a few balls on the obsession landscape: balls of barbed wire, rubber bands, even flimsy pseudo-balls made of stickers. But special tribute must be paid to the mother of all moss-gathering pursuits: the Giant Twine Ball. These outsized uber-orbs have become subjects of song and legend, balanced firmly at the Olympian apex of classic roadside attractions, loftier even than the alligator farm and the drive-thru tree.

The long shot, JFK's ball, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin. (2015)
New orb on the block. Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin (2015).

Anyone who's ever tried, and failed, to make a simple ball out of tape should be awed by those who've mastered the art of the Giant Twine Ball. Theirs is a constant battle for spherical perfection against the merciless tug of gravity, which pulls apart loose knots and turns carelessly-wrapped globes into something resembling a deflated football or a melting scoop of ice cream.

Giant Twine Balls are not casual commitments. Those who labor in their creation need space, a good eye, a strong back, millions of feet of twine, and a willingness to devote years, even decades, to the project.

It's no wonder then that towns lucky enough to possess a Giant Twine Ball have, at least in some cases, wrapped their civic arms around their rotund claims to fame.

How Big?

The contender: Cawker City, Kansas (2003).
Frank Stoeber's ball. Cawker City, Kansas (2003).

The fairest assessment of a giant twine ball's size would be the number of miles of twine in it, but, informed guesses aside, no one has any real idea how much the biggest balls contain. They also sag as they grow, making girth unreliable as a gauge of largeness. Weight seems to be the best available measure*, as it separates the loosely-wound from the honestly dense.

Size matters, but don't let it dominate your thinking; every Giant Twine Ball has different attributes. So which one is right for you? A quick comparison of America's four champion Giant Twine Balls may help guide you to your favorite twine town.

Darwin, Minnesota

  • Creator: Francis Johnson
  • Active years: 1950-1979
  • The alpha ball, which inspired the others
  • Height: 12 feet
  • Weight: 17,400 lbs (heaviest verified twine ball)
  • Circumference: 40 feet
  • Ball shape: good
  • Made by one man
  • Classic sisal twine
  • Preserved as it was in 1979
  • Only twine ball with its own popular song
  • Annual Twine Ball Day 2nd Saturday in August

The idea grows. Darwin, Minnesota, 1950s
The idea grows. Darwin, Minnesota (1958).

Cawker City, Kansas

  • Creator: Frank Stoeber
  • Active years: 1953-1974, plus modern crowdsourcing
  • First twine ball as a permanent public attraction (since 1962)
  • Only public-participation twine ball
  • Height: 12 feet
  • Weight: 27,500 lbs (2023 estimate*)
  • Circumference: 46 feet
  • Classic sisal twine
  • Annual Twine-a-Thon 3rd Friday in August

Highland, Wisconsin

  • Creator: James Frank Kotera
  • Active years: 1979-2022
  • Height: 10 feet
  • Width: 22 feet
  • Weight: 24,100 lbs (2022 estimate*)
  • Claimed largest twine ball made by one man
  • Modern plastic twine

Ball of String at Ripley's, Branson, Missouri (2012).
Ball of Twine at Ripley's. Branson, Missouri (2012).

Branson, Missouri

  • Creator: J.C. Payne
  • Active years: 1987-1991
  • Height: 13.5 feet
  • Weight: 13,000 lbs (verified)
  • Circumference: 41.4 feet
  • Ball shape: good
  • Made by one man
  • Modern plastic twine
  • Suspiciously lightweight for its size
  • Only twine ball that you have to pay admission to see

* Giant Twine Ball weight estimates may be excessive. The Darwin Twine Ball, for example, was estimated at 21,140 lbs, but turned out to be 17,400 lbs.

More Towns with Balls

Alexandria, Indiana - World's Largest Ball of Paint

Weston, Missouri - World's Largest Ball of String

Boys Town, Nebraska - World's Largest Ball of Stamps

Grand Prairie, Texas - World's 2nd Largest Ball of Barbed Wire

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Create Your Own Bizarre Road Trips! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Route 66 Experience: Metal Muffler Man, Springfield, Illinois (May 27-Jun 2, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings