Small Illinois town a big deal — literally

CASEY, Illinois.

It’s not the world’s largest town or even the world’s largest small town. But this Illinois community is home to eight of the world’s largest items and about a dozen more huge things. And town leaders are always on the lookout for the next big thing.

Welcome to Casey. (The locals pronounce it “KAY-zee.”) It’s a town of about 2,700 just south of Interstate 70 (exit 129), about halfway between St. Louis and Indianapolis. The whole world’s record thing sounds hokey, but it’s really a lot of fun and makes a nice break from interstate driving.

Most of the attractions are located within a few blocks of each other on Main Street, which once was part of the National Road. Just driving by, you’ll see the world’s largest wind chime, world’s largest rocking chair and world’s largest mailbox. But you have to get out of your vehicle to really enjoy your visit.

For example, visitors can actually ring the wind chimes by pulling on a rope. Pulleys make the tugging easy. You can’t sit or climb on the rocking chair, but you can climb a flight of stairs to stand inside the mailbox.

At The Yarn Studio, you’ll find the world’s largest knitting needles and crochet hook. These two really work, as it were. The Guinness Book of Records people insisted that they be functional, so the creators knitted a few stitches and crocheted a bit of yarn.

Behind the mailbox and inside the Candy Depot, you’ll find the world’s largest wooden shoes or clogs.

You have to drive a few blocks to see world’s largest pitchfork and world’s largest golf tee, which eventually will be joined by a large golf ball and driver — world records, one would hope.

The town also has big things that aren’t world records but are impressive nonetheless: an ear of corn, bird cage, yardstick, pencil, spinning top and bookworm.

Jim Bolin is the man behind the big things. He got the idea for making big things about a decade ago. He was looking for a way to put Casey on the map and to lure people driving by on the interstate. Bolin liked wind chimes; and, as an executive with a pipeline maintenance company, he had access to some really big pipes. So he decided to make giant wind chimes.

After two years of planning and construction, the chimes were ready for ringing in December 2011. A couple of years later came the world’s largest golf tee, placed at the Casey Country Club. A sign on the interstate touting these unique attractions soon brought passing motorists down Illinois 49 and into the heart of town.

Each big thing has a piece of scripture written on or near it. The message has something to do with the object. For example, a psalm about knitting on the needles reads: “It’s not a self thing or a company thing,”

Behind the wind chimes is the Big Things in a Small Town Workshop, where visitors can watch craftspeople make the next big things — a gavel, giant rocking horse, big baseball bats and a giant golf club to go with the tee. The world’s largest teeter-totter is under construction on Main Street next to the wind chimes.

About 500 people come through the workshop daily in the summer, with up to 100 in the winter. A trolley runs on the weekend from big thing to big thing.

There are about a half-dozen places to eat in town. One of the more whimsical restaurants is Whitling Whimsy Café, a tea and sandwich shop next to the wind chimes. While dining, patrons can look for more than 100 objects that start with the letter w. Even the restrooms carry through that theme — A Wonder Woman poster marking the women’s and a Wolverine sign for men.

Be sure to pick up a local map, so you don’t miss any of the big things.

Other nearby points of interest include the Illinois American Softball Hall of Fame in Casey’s Fairview Park, a big anvil and horseshoe in nearby Martinsville, Lincoln Trail State Park near Marshall and Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site north of Greenup. The Historic National Road runs along and near U.S. 40 from the Indiana state line to St. Louis.

Whether you are zipping along the interstate or moseying along the historic route, the whimsical town of Casey makes for an enjoyable break.

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Casey, Illinois is home to a variety of big things.

World’s largest items:

  • Wind chimes, on Main Street next to Whitling Whimsy Café, 109 E. Main St.
  • Rocking chair, across from the wind chimes
  • Teeter totter, under construction, east of the wind chimes
  • Knitting needles and crochet hook, in the Yarn Studio, 2 E. Main St.
  • Mailbox, 19 W. Main St.
  • Wooden shoes/clogs, in Candy Depot, behind the mailbox
  • Golf tee, behind the golf course clubhouse, 203 NE 13th St.
  • Pitchfork, next to Richards Farm Restaurant, 607 NE 13th St.

Other big items to look for:

  • Ear of corn, 2 E. Main St.
  • Bird cage, 26 W. Main St.
  • Pencil, 8 W. Main St.
  • Yardstick, 101 N. Central St.
  • Wooden token, 936 Illinois 49
  • Top, 18 S. Central Ave.
  • Bookworm, 307 E. Main St.