2002.11.20 It’s the next Big Thing

By DAVID GREEN

In the overall scale of Big Things, Soap Lake’s 60-foot lava lamp isn’t all that big. Sure, it would tower over a six-foot person, but it would pale in comparison to something like the Space Needle down the road in Seattle.

Soap Lake, Wash., doesn’t have a giant bottle of slowly bubbling oil yet, but city council has given its OK to the 30 ton structure. All that’s needed is $3 million. Or maybe $25 million. No one is really sure how much it might cost because, obviously, it’s never before been done.

Why a lava lamp? Well, that’s stretching things a little. The Soap Lake region is said to be one of the last on Earth to have had a massive lava flow. What better way to commemorate that spectacle than by building a 60-foot lava lamp.

Soap Lake is suffering—not like they’ll suffer if their lava lamp ever busts open—but their former claim to fame is spoiled. Visitors once came by the thousands to bathe in nearby Soap Lake. The mineral-laden water would froth up on the shoreline as people frolicked in the healing waters.

Those days are long gone. Mineral waters aren’t sought by many people anymore, especially not diluted waters like Soap Lake that were the victim of flooding from Grand Coulee Dam.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, people no longer have to look before crossing Main Street because there’s not much traffic in the town of 1,700 people. Former businesses are now closed and shuttered. There’s not much left but the lake.

If it ever becomes a reality, this will undoubtedly be the world’s first 60-foot lava lamp, but it’s only one of a string of Big Things. Most every state in the Union has at least one.

Long Beach, Wash., has the world’s largest frying pan and possibly the world’s largest wooden razor clam. They also lay claim to the only mummified merman. He’s said to be worth 80,000 visitors a year to the town of 1,400.

The small town of Coulee Dam boasts The World’s Largest Sand Pile, although that apparently hasn’t generated much revenue. Winlock’s World’s Largest Egg (painted like an American flag) doesn’t appear to be a really big attraction, either, but maybe it’s because a town in Indiana and another in South Carolina also lay claim to the title.

Washington also boasts the largest paper airplane, cherry pie, milk bottle, totem pole and wagon. Head south into Oregon for the largest opossums. To the east, Montana has the largest eagle and penguin.

Cross the border into Alberta and there are 16 Big Things, ranging from the largest Starship Enterprise (in Vulcan, Alberta) to the king of kielbasa. Move on to Saskatchewan and find the biggest oil can.

Canada has the biggest mystery items: bunnock, loonie, twoonie, inukshuk, pyrogy and more.

You probably figure this column is leading up to the usual conclusion: what is Morenci’s role? How can we enter the Big Thing competition to attract tens of thousands of annoying tourists? You’re right. That’s what’s been on my mind.

It seems that all the obvious choices have been taken: the biggest sandfly, doorknob, worm, beer can, gumnut, bunyip and stubby.

So what’s remaining that really says “This is Morenci”? I’m thinking of Bean Creek, but no, not the World’s Largest E. coli Bacteria. It seems to me that we should go with our old favorite Carpoides cyprinus, the quillback carpsucker.

A DNR research team spotted the fish during a Bean Creek survey in the early 1980s. It’s a bottom feeder that revels in the muddy ooze of the Bean. It’s said to exhibit bizarre behavior patterns. It spooks easily. It often remains suspended and motionless for long periods of time. Totally torpid but a strong fighters.

I think it says us and I think we should move forward. Let the fund-raising begin.

Or let’s just build it and hope for a grant.

    – Nov. 20, 2002 
  • Front.web
    NICE WORK—A spider remains at the center of a web, awaiting visitors, during a moist morning last month. The was built in front of Eagle Funeral Home in Morenci.
  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.