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The BIG Times, June/July 2013

A round-up of BIG news highlights across the globe, and other BIG finds we want to share!


News which caught our attention over the past month:

The standing world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Superman was broken on June 5, by a group of 566 people! Sears organized the event at its corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. It tied in with this month’s release of the movie “Man of Steel,” in which the character Clark Kent’s father Jonathan works at a Sears.

Photo Credit: Guinnessworldrecords.com

Photo Credit: Guinnessworldrecords.com

Save the Date! The AutoFair, the “World’s Largest Automotive Extravaganza” returns to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, September 19-22. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway. The AutoFair will also feature a collector car auction.


I love that I got an email from the people behind the World’s Largest Wind Chime and the World’s Largest Golf Tee just to say “hello,” and let me know all the BIG things going on in little Casey, Illinois!

wind chimes

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Willis Tower: Tallest Building in the Western Hemisphere

Willis Tower

Willis Tower, Chicago

I’m sorta amazed by people who don’t have a fear of heights, like I do. How do they not get jelly knees and queasy stomachs being that far from terra firma? In this case, 1,353 feet above said terra, to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (That’s 412 meters, for all our metric friends).

Our guest post this month comes from Nicole Wiltrout, a freelance writer living in Columbus, IN. Nicole writes about adventures at home and away with her husband and two young sons at Arrows Sent Forth. She also shared this report on the world’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis last year.

Nicole is far braver than I am. Her report:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

My husband and I, along with our youngest son, spent a weekend in Chicago. This included a trip to the SkyDeck at the top of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) on a Saturday afternoon.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

My family typically visits Chicago a couple of times each year. This particular trip was to do some research for a blogging project with Expedia. I wanted to visit a few major Chicago attractions that I had either never been to or hadn’t visited in a while. I’ve heard a lot about the SkyDeck but had never done it on previous trips to the city.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The SkyDeck would be particularly interesting to fans of Go BIG or Go Home because it’s a chance to go to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll ride an elevator 103 stories up and step out on a glass sky ledge that extends four feet off the side of the building.

SkyDeck Willis Tower

No way. No how. Never.

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World’s Largest Pinball Machine, Chicago, IL

Not being able to clone myself presents two major problems: A) I have to do ALL the laundry myself; and B) I can’t visit all the really cool BIG things out there I want to see. Like the world’s largest pinball machine, which anyone (other than poor ole’ clone-less me) can find at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which just happens to be the largest science museum in the western hemisphere!


The largest science museum in the western hemisphere!

So while I make sure the kids have clean undies, I rely on generous contributors to write monthly guest posts covering what I have to miss. This month, that kind soul is Jessica at Suitcases and Sippycups. When she sent me her photos of the pinball machine, I was caught off guard, because I thought it would look like an arcade table-style game.

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World’s Largest Tiffany Glass Dome, Chicago, IL

For this month’s guest post, we giddily welcome the return of Julie Henning from Road Trips for Families. Giddily, because her last post for us was about the world’s largest toilet! Which remains one of the most visited pages on this site. She obviously knows how to speak to the masses.

From porcelain thrones to glass domes, she can write it all. Julie reports to us from Chicago…

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

In the Windy City for the 60th anniversary conference of the Midwest Travel Writers Association, the pomp and circumstance of the opening night gala paled in comparison to the grandeur of the Chicago Cultural Center. Under the circumference of the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world, we backed practically into corners to capture all 1,000 square feet holding 30,000 pieces of glass with our cameras.


WHY did you go there, exactly?

Without children, I imagined the experience with kids in tow. Joking with our tour guide about the lack of water slides in the main foyer, I was handed a map for the Chicago Cultural Center Treasure Hunt with a future visit in mind. Engaging enough to hold even my attention, the treasure hunt is a twelve-part scavenger hunt through the building. Part education, part adventure, treasure seekers who solve the Golden Clue receive a prize from the Information Desk.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

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World’s Largest Jack O’Lantern Displays


I know I’m starting to sound like a scaredy cat. I assure you it’s mostly just a fear of heights. And spiders. And 200 TV channels all airing reality shows at the same time.

Keene Pumpkin Festival

Keene Pumpkin Festival. Photo Credit: J.W. Ocker via OddThingsIveSeen.com

Given my delicate nature, Halloween tends to not be my favorite holiday. But Jack O’Lantern festivals are just my cup of tea. They’re more about fun and artistry, and less about fright and gore.

There are two events this year vying for the world record for the most Jack O’Lanterns lit at one event.

The Keene Pumpkin Festival in NH is the largest and oldest. The world record for the number of Jack O’Lanterns lit at one event was broken here eight times, until a 2006 event in Boston topped it. Still, last year’s 29,762 pumpkins was a record for this festival, and the world record may be broken again this year! The 20th anniversary of the Keene Pumpkin Festival takes place on Main Street in Keene this Saturday, October 16.

In this corner, the challenger! The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival in IL, is preparing to take its own shot at the world record this year. The whole community participates, creating and donating their own carved creations. They anticipate lighting 32,000 Jack O’Lanterns to take the title! This event takes place October 20-23 in Highwood, IL.

Highwood Pumpkin Festival

Highwood Pumpkin Festival. Photo Credit: Marcia Burke, City of Highwood

Full disclosure: we have not been to either of these events. But we have been to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, NY for five years in a row. There are over 4,000 Jack O’ lanterns on display here; nothing to sneeze at! And since this event is my personal, “hometown” favorite, I’m going to give them a plug.  The level of artistry and creativity at the Blaze is notably above par. The Jack O’Lanterns cover the grounds of a 17th-century historic site; hanging from tree limbs, perched on rooftops, and incorporated in themed vignettes. You’ll see an undersea aquarium, a field of detailed Celtic knots, a den of dinos, a beehive, pirate ship, and a group of mummies with a pyramid. Amazing.

If you would like more information about these and other Jack O’Lantern festivals, I recently wrote this article for WomansDay.com about ten different events across the country.

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