Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An Obsession with Size (Australia)

Driving between any two Australian towns or cities, you are likely to encounter an oversized and artificial roadside attraction. Typically built of fibreglass, plastic or metal, over 150 of these objects litter the highways and by-ways. Some are true works of art and important symbols of the well-being of a town. Others are built as the centerpiece of a commercial attraction while others are simply ugly and tragic. Quite a number are there purely as advertising gimmicks encouraging tired motorists to pull over and take a much needed break (and spend some money) on long distance drives.

The first of the Big Things, the Big Banana in the beautiful beachside city of Coffs Harbour recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary and several have passed their thirtieth. They have become such an icon of Australia that Australia Post recently issued a set of five stamps illustrating some of the better known ones. Many homes have matching kitsch souvenirs in teaspoons, tea towels, fridge magnets or bottle-openers.

Certainly, there is plenty of fruit represented - The Big Apple, Big Orange, Big Pineapple, Big Banana and The Big Mango would make for a tasty and juicy fruit salad fit for a giant. Australia’s close tie with the land is also memorialised with several Big Cows, several Big Sheep and a Big Chicken. There is even a Big Blue Heeler presumably to round up and corral the big sheep.

Indigenous Australiana can be found in the forms of The Big Koala, Big Kangaroo, Big Galah, Big Crocodile, Big Cassowary (a large and endangered flightless bird) and Big Tasmanian Devil while our affinity with the sea is enforced with The Big Crab, Big Prawn, Big Trout, Big Lobster, Big Oyster and Big Barramundi (Australia’s best known fish).

The discoverer of Australia, Captain Cook has been suitably enlarged in a regal pose in northern Queensland while the most famous and notorious of our outlaws has been immortalised with The Big Ned Kelly in Glenrowan, where he was finally captured. The Big Gumboot highlights Tully as the Australian town which receives the most rainfall while Tamworth celebrates its position as Australia’s country music capital with an enlarged version of its prized golden guitar awards.

A Big Ayers Rock provides a fuel stop but is many times smaller than the real thing. Yet at over 300 metres in length The Giant Earthworm is simply bizarre, though it attracts over 200,000 visitors per year.

In my view, the saddest “big thing” is the Big Potato found in the spectacular rolling green hills of Robertson. Somewhat embarrassing to the locals and lying idly in a field, it is in desperate need of a coat of paint and a little love. Some locals have irreverently christened it “The Big Turd”.

Why are they all here? Maybe it is Australia’s renowned sense of irreverent humor. Maybe they are there to entertain and amuse both overseas visitors and long-distance road travellers. Whatever the reasons, most Australians and many overseas visitors will have a photo album containing at least one family shot in front of their “Big Thing” discovery as they ventured across this diverse island continent.

Wikipedia lists a fairly complete list of Big Things

Other Australia Posts
Invasion of the Termites (Pinnacles, Western Australia)
And Then There Were Eight (Victoria)


Asian Traveler said...

I won't mind stopping here and have my pictures taken with these appealing over sized objects. :) But I was saddened to see the poor big potato looking somewhat like a rotted potato. I agree with you it needs a little love to replenish its color.

Out of topic:
I just posted a new entry about the buffet at Baiyoke Sky in Bangkok, Thailand. You might want to check it out. :)

Cecil said...

'Big Pineapple'? I've been there! I've been there! he..he..
You got the point Mark! I did that also: stop-by the highway, took a shot in front of the 'Big Pineapple' and drove off....

Tony said...

WOW thats amazing, lol I never knew they had those. I plan on going to Australia soon, so ill to keep an eye out for these. :) Hey, I also found a site that I think you would like, its called
check it out :)

Mark H said...

@asian traveler: Very sad indeed.

@cecil: First one I ever saw too only 80 kms from where I grew up.

@tony: Australia is a great place for a holiday.

Jaime said...

For some strange reason, I'm creaped out!

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Hey, New Zealand does that too. Many of our country towns have a bigger than life sculpture of something which symbolizes their town. Quite a clever gimmick really.

GMG said...

Hi Mark! After a short break but a long absence, I’m finally back to the blogosphere and found some amazing pics here...

Mark H said...

@jaime: What creeps you out?

@suzanne: I agree that they are quite a clever gimmick.

@gmg: Good to see you back...

Carmen and Jim said...

I noticed that when I was in Aussie-land. Everything is supersized. :)

John said...

It is an interesting idea to place oversize objects to attract people. But there should be an elaborate process to choose what to place. I remember Spain is littered with bull sculptures along the highways and it has become symbol of the country.


Mark H said...

@carmenandjim: :)

@john: I'm not sure the process is that elaborate which means that these things very from really impressive to really awful and ugly (like the Potato and quite a number of others).

Sherry Ott said...

Love this kitschy piece of Australia I never knew about! Thanks to your Link Within widget - I love discovering other parts of your site!

Mark H said...

@sherry: Very kitschy indeed. Some are still surprisingly popular. I drove past the Big Oyster a few months ago (in Taree, a town a few hours drive north of Sydney) which is now a car sales yard.

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